Scientist try to save near extinct northern white rhino by growing embryos in test tubes

The two rhinos you see in the image below are called Najin and Fatu, the last two northern white rhinos (NWR) known to be alive today. The pair is both female and both are infertile. With the last male NWR having died months back the end of the species is guaranteed unless science can stop it. A team of scientists says that they have grown embryos containing the DNA of the male NWR and hope to save the subspecies from extinction.

The team of scientists has a goal to have the first NWR calf in the next three years. The NWR has a 16-month pregnancy giving the team around a year to have a successful implantation. The team used a recently-patented 6.6-foot long egg extraction device that has allowed the first ever test tube-produced rhino.

Those embryos are frozen right now and the team says that there is a high chance of establishing pregnancy once the embryos are implanted into the surrogate mother. These hybrid embryos were created with frozen sperm from dead NWR males and the eggs of southern white rhino females.

The team also hopes to collect eggs from the last two remaining NWR females to continue the species. Currently, the researchers are waiting for permission for the egg harvest. That process requires full anesthesia and poses a risk to the rhino.

Until permission to harvest the eggs is granted, the team will move forward with implanting hybrid embryos into the southern white rhino surrogates. Another challenge is that the team has semen from four dead males and if successful the process would not give the genetic diversity needed for the species to thrive.