Saving The Endangered Snow Leopard With Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells
January 24, 2012
The survival of the endangered snow leopard is looking promising thanks to scientists who have, for the first time, produced embryonic stem-like cells from the tissue of an adult leopard.
AsianScientist (Jan. 24, 2012) – The survival of the endangered snow leopard is looking promising thanks to Monash University scientists who have, for the first time, produced embryonic stem-like cells from the tissue of an adult leopard.
Never before have induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, which share many of the useful properties of embryonic stem cells, been generated from a member of the cat family.
Led by Dr. Paul Verma from the Monash Institute of Medical Research (MIMR), the team generated iPS cells from ear tissue samples taken from adult snow leopards at New South Wales’ Mogo Zoo.
The breakthrough, published in the journal Theriogenology, raises the possibility of cryopreservation of genetic material for future cloning and other assisted reproduction techniques.
“There is a lot of interest in cryopreservation of tissue from endangered species, but for this to be useful for conservation, both sperm and an egg are required,” Dr. Verma said.
“The power of stem cells is that they can differentiate into all the cell types in the body. This means, they have the potential to become gametes. In fact, mouse iPS cells have given rise to entire offspring, so the possibilities are enormous,” he added.
The snow leopard is a large cat native to the mountain ranges of Central Asia. Their high-altitude habitat and shy nature make accurate population counts difficult, but it is estimated that between 3,500 and 7,000 snow leopards exist in the wild, with numbers on the decline.
The article can be found at: Verma R et al. (2011) Inducing pluripotency in somatic cells from the snow leopard (Panthera uncia), an endangered felid .
Source: Monash University; Photo: Snow Leopard Blog.
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