Scientists begin harvesting stem cells from endangered bird species

(ORDO NEWS) — The loss of biodiversity has reached an alarming rate in recent decades, with more and more animal species disappearing every year due to climate change and human activity.

Unable to directly save them, scientists propose at least preserving their genetic material – stem cells – so that our descendants will be able to restore once extinct species.

About one and a half thousand species of birds are today on the “red” list: the number of the most numerous is measured in several thousand, the smallest – only a few individuals.

Already 224 species are on the verge of extinction : for example, kakapo, or owl parrots ( Strigops habroptila ), only about 50 individuals remain in the world.

Unfortunately, the efforts of conservationists to save the surviving birds do not always lead to success: the destruction of their habitat by humans does not allow the formation of a viable population, while not all species breed in zoos.

As a result, in order to preserve at least the genetic diversity of endangered species, scientists are attracting the latest technologies, including induced stem cells derived from other types of cells.

Researchers led by Masafumi Katayama of the National Institute for Environmental Research (Japan) have already obtained cultures of induced stem cells from several species of endangered Japanese birds, including the Okinawan shepherd ( Hypotaenidia okinawae ) and fish owl ( Bubo blakistoni ).

To do this, they had to “reprogram” ordinary animal cells, and although the scientists used the same method of obtaining stem cells, the characteristics of the “final product” were somewhat different.

So, for example, stem cells of the Japanese subspecies of tundra partridge ( Lagopus muta japonica ), when injected into a developing chicken embryo (this was done to check the viability of the resulting cells), led to the formation of a chimeric embryo, while cells of other bird species did not cause anything like that.

Scientists begin harvesting stem cells from endangered bird species 2
Endangered species and subspecies of Japanese birds from which cultures of induced stem cells were obtained

The obtained stem cells are valuable not only for future research, but also as a “mock-up” for assessing the risks of infectious diseases and chemical pollution on the health of these rare species.

All cultures are fully viable and can differentiate into various cell types, from neuronal progenitors to liver cell progenitors. So there is still a lot of work for scientists to collect and preserve the stem cells of as many species as possible – priceless traces of endangered birds.

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