Stem cells give hope for rare species
Steve Connor is the Science Editor of The Independent and i. He has won many awards for his journalism, including five-times winner of the prestigious British science writers’ award; the David Perlman Award of the American Geophysical Union; four times highly commended as specialist journalist of the year in the UK Press Awards; UK health journalist of the year and a special merit award of the European School of Oncology for his investigations into the tobacco industry. He has a degree in zoology from the University of Oxford and has a special interest in genetics and medical science, human evolution and origins, climate change and the environment.
Monday 05 September 2011
Scientists have taken the first tentative steps towards conserving some of the world's most endangered species with the help of stem-cell technology, which could lead to the generation of sperm and eggs from skin cells.
Oliver Ryder, the director of genetics at San Diego Zoo's Institute for Conservation Research, said he and his colleagues had generated stem cells – which are capable of developing into specialised cells such as sperm and eggs – of two endangered species from samples of their skin.
The idea is that the approach could be used to generate sperm and eggs from a "frozen zoo" of skin samples taken from more than 800 species.
The San Diego scientists used a technique called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) to convert specialised skin cells into unspecialised stem cells. The next stage is to convert the stem cells into viable sperm and eggs which could then be used to boost genetic diversity in wild populations.
The study was published in the journal Nature Methods.
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