Endangered species may be saved from extinction using advanced cloning techniques

By @ritwikroy1985 on
Cloning
The taxidermied remains of Dolly the Sheep, the first cloned mammal created from an adult cell, is displayed at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, Scotland April 30, 2014. Reuters/Suzanne Plunkett

British scientist Sir Ian Wilmut has predicted that cloning techniques may save animals from extinction in future. The techniques may allow a “Noah’s Ark” of cells to save the animals. Just like seeds of rare plants are preserved for posterity, an animal biobank can solve the extinction problem in animals.

The team of scientists was led by Wilmut and it’s the same team that the world’s first cloned animal, Dolly the sheep, at the University of Edinburgh's Roslin Institute on July 5, 1996. Dolly was cloned from an adult cell. The cloning process partly involved reprogramming adult cells in order to turn back their developmental clock.

Later stem cell scientists created induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells from ordinary adult cells, such as those in the skin, using the same technique. Like embryonic cells, iPS cells may become any kind of tissue in the body. Any kind of available cells could be theoretically stored in the biobank “Noah’s Ark” of cells. However, there has to be existing technology that could convert these cells into reproductive cells.

Scientists have already made remarkable progress in creating eggs and sperm called “gametes” from iPS cells. "I would presume that one day with the species which are really studied we will be able to produce gametes, and therefore embryos,” Wilmut told News.com.au.

The gametes that are artificially created could be used to produce embryos from which species could be resurrected. Success of such ventures would depend a lot on finding a suitable surrogate mother, said Wilmut. It should be a closely-related species.

The iPS cell development raises the prospect of personalised stem cell treatments, taken from a patient’s own cells, which won’t be rejected by the immune system. Dolly the sheep was able to mate and produce offspring, proving that cloned animals can reproduce properly.