Scientists at the San Diego Zoo and the Scripps Research Institute have successfully created stem cells from the skin of a deceased, endangered drill monkey. The drill monkey lives in Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria, and Cameroon and would make an awesome band name. The scientists are attempting to make sperm and egg cells using these induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, which could then be implanted in a surrogate mother of the same species or a similar species.
Their attempt to make iPS cells involved using genetically engineered viruses with human genes to alter regular cells into iPS cells. This worked on drill monkey cells but not on the white rhino. You know what they say, human and rhinoceros DNA just don’t splice (contrary to what you’ve seen at Walmart).
San Diego Zoo’s Frozen Zoo project has taken samples from 8,400 individuals of more than 800 species. It is hoped that these samples can be used in IVF programmes to improve captive breeding projects. Jeane Loring, one of the Scripps researchers, told New Scientist: “You could actually breed from animals that are dead.” [Telegraph]
Sounds like the beginning of a zombie movie. Anyway, this method has also been used by researchers in Spain to clone an extinct Pyrenean ibex, which later died from lung problems that have been common so far in cloned animals. Hopefully they can get the lung problems worked out, because I don’t want my future velociraptor dance troupe to have to take breaks to use an asthma inhaler. Wait, I totally do. Velociraptors with asthma inhalers would be freaking adorable.