Researchers have discovered that the last male Sumatran rhino used stem cells to create miniature brains
According to a recent study, scientists created cerebral organoids and induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) from the final male Malaysian Sumatran rhino. The organoids may serve to shed light on the early evolution of the rhinoceros family and the evolutionary trend of mammal brain development.
To the best of his knowledge, only mouse, human, and non-human primate pluripotent stem cells have been used to create brain organoids, according to senior study author Sebastian Diecke of the Max-Delbruck-Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (MDC). We were thrilled to see that Sumatran rhino iPSCs formed miniature brains in a manner that appeared to be similar to that described for human organoids.
The sixth mass extinction is occurring at a previously unheard-of rate. Due to poaching, habitat degradation, and fragmentation, the five extant rhinoceros species are highly impacted. The smallest and oldest rhinoceros species still living is the Sumatran rhino, sometimes referred to as the hairy or Asian two-horned rhino. In sculpting forests and dispersing the seeds of at least 79 distinct plant species, it is crucial.
There are less than 80 Sumatran rhinos left in existence. They once lived continuously across a huge region of East and Southeast Asia. But today, only tiny, dispersed populations are still found in Sumatra and Indonesian Borneo. The major risks to the species are habitat loss and fewer opportunities for reproduction, which are causing a steady population reduction.
The restoration of genetic material is essential to halt the loss of genetic diversity. Innovative approaches must be developed due to the low propagation rate of captive breeding. A potent instrument in the fight against extinction is iPSCs.
They are the source of all bodily cells, including gametes, and offer a special method for maintaining genetic information throughout time. Beyond their use in creative conservation measures, iPSCs from threatened species allow for the study of developmental processes unique to each species.
In the latest work, Diecke and his colleagues produced iPSCs from Kertam, the last male Malaysian Sumatran rhino who passed away in 2019 and thoroughly described them. The three germ layers’ cells were developed from the iPSCs.
According to the first author Vera Zywitza of MDC, “We preserved his genetic information and provided a possibility to produce healthy spermatozoa for breeding purposes in the future.” In vitro-generated spermatozoa offer a fantastic alternative for assisted breeding of Sumatran rhinos in general because the quality of semen collected from Sumatran rhinos is poor immediately after collection and significantly worse after cryopreservation and thawing.
The cerebral organoids also demonstrate the iPSCs’ capacity to create intricate 3D structures and offer a viable application for researching the evolution of brain development in many species. The organoids self-organized during development and expressed every neuronal marker examined. Together, these efforts mark the first step in adopting stem cell-related methods to halt the Sumatran rhino’s extinction.
According to Diecke, “We hope the public audience obtains insights into the immense potential of iPSCs and the range of applications they can employ.” We also want to spread the word about the current sixth mass extinction crisis brought on by human activity and the enormous efforts required to save just one species.