Induced pluripotent stem cells and cerebral organoids from the critically endangered Sumatran rhinoceros

iScience. 2022 Oct 21;25(11):105414. doi: 10.1016/j.isci.2022.105414. eCollection 2022 Nov 18.


Less than 80 Sumatran rhinos (SR, Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) are left on earth. Habitat loss and limited breeding possibilities are the greatest threats to the species and lead to a continuous population decline. To stop the erosion of genetic diversity, reintroduction of genetic material is indispensable. However, as the propagation rate of captive breeding is far too low, innovative technologies have to be developed. Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) are a powerful tool to fight extinction. They give rise to each cell within the body including gametes and provide a unique modality to preserve genetic material across time. Additionally, they enable studying species-specific developmental processes. Here, we generate iPSCs from the last male Malaysian SR Kertam, who died in 2019, and characterize them comprehensively. Differentiation in cells of the three germ layers and cerebral organoids demonstrate their high quality and great potential for supporting the rescue of this critically endangered species.

Keywords: Cell biology; Ecology; Stem cells research.