Cloning technique could bring species back from extinction

Tomas Martin @ 18-04-2008

This Northern White Rhino lives at San Diego ZooIt seems to be a week for biological-related stories here on Futurismic. Using skin cells from the nearly extinct Northern White Rhino, scientists can reprogram them back to an embryonic state, from which they can create sperm and eggs with the animal’s genes. An animal can then be created in vitro or through a surrogate mother from the Southern species of White Rhino. There are only 3 or 4 of the Northern variety left in the wild.

Professor Robert Millar, the director of the Medical Research Council’s Reproductive Sciences Unit at Edinburgh University, who is leading the study, said: “There are a lot of African animals under the threat of extinction. We want to protect their genomes, but you have to protect their habitats as well. This is one of the ways of dealing with the problem, especially when the animals get to such low numbers in the wild. It is a method we need to start to get into place as an insurance policy – it’s clearly do-able according to the laboratory work.”

This poses an extremely interesting moral dilemma. Is it worse to clone an animal or to let its species go extinct? And if the animal was cloned, does that make it a legal member of the species?

[via the Independent, Northern White Rhino in San Diego Zoo picture by Eliya]