A Foray Into Science: A New Hope for Conservation

My name is Uly Rivera and I have the pleasure to work with individuals who have preserved their cells with us. Before I continue, I must disclose that I am NOT a scientist. In fact, I am the lone team member of Silene Biotech that isn't a doctor or a scientist. The lone muggle on a team full of science wizards, I stand alone with my Bachelor of Arts degree. 

But I am interested in the field of science. I am interested in studies and research that have far reaching implications on our daily lives and our future. I also love to connect with people and share information that I find vital, fascinating or entertaining. That said, I’d like to share some of the intriguing research, studies, and breakthroughs in the scientific world with you. They might relate to stem cells, personalized medicine or just some cool science stuff. And today we begin with a natural starting point from an online marketer - a cat related post. 
 
On March 1, 2017, the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute and Nashville Zoo announced the birth of a male clouded leopard. What makes this birth noteworthy besides the fact that a clouded leopard cub is beyond adorable? The birth was the result of an artificial insemination (AI) procedure using frozen/thawed semen. This is a first for this endangered species with big implications for conservation efforts.
 
The clouded leopard is a vulnerable species meaning that their population is decreasing. This is due to habitat loss and poaching, with exact numbers of the population unknown. Even with a breeding program in place by the Clouded Leopard Consortium, clouded leopard are difficult to breed in captivity and captive population is not self-sustaining. 
 
“This cub, the first clouded leopard offspring produced with cryopreserved semen, is a symbol of how zoos and scientists can come together to make positive change for animals and preserving global biodiversity,” said Adrienne Crosier, biologist at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute.
 
“It means we can collect and preserve semen from clouded leopard populations around the globe and improve pregnancy outcomes from AI procedures in this species,” said Dr. Heather Robertson, Director of Veterinary Services at the Zoo.
 
This also represents an exciting possibility for other species that face extinction. And beyond the use of frozen/thawed semen in AI, there is the possibility of using induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells to augment the breeding populations.
 
There is partnership between Japanese scientist and German researchers trying to save the nearly extinct northern white rhinoceros by producing eggs from iPS cells. With only three animals alive in a nature preserve in Kenya, the team is looking to produce eggs which would then be fertilized in vitro with frozen semen. The fertilized egg would then be carried to term by a closely related animal, possibly a south white rhinoceros.  

Conservation efforts in the wild are necessary for endangered species but using new scientific advancements could be a vital resource in the mission to save these species.
 
As for the unnamed clouded leopard cub, he will stay at the Nashville Zoo where he’ll be hand-raised to ensure survival and well-being. Plans are in place to eventually introduce him to a potential mate.