194? Sounds familiar? Probably not. It is a number of mammal species known to be critically endangered. However soon they will probably have more misfortunate companions making IUCN list even more crowded. Recent article shed some light to their vague hopes of survival bravely introducing a promising technique for non-model organisms.
Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPSCs) – the combination of words most likely hiding somewhere in the misty corners of the evolutionary biologist brain (no offence intended) at the same time impressively storming through the fields of cell and regenerative biology. iPSCs can differentiate in to multiple cell types and are generated from somatic cells (fully differentiated ones) by so called direct molecular reprogramming or in other words by using cocktails of several transcription factors. Ben-Nun et al. (2011) created iPSCs for a primate (Mandrillus leucophaeus) and the nearly extinct northern white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum cottoni). Though not without specific challenges this application could potentially help when treating diseases of captive representatives of endangered species or even when increasing genetic diversity of the threatened populations. Still, seas of effort, money and most importantly brave interdisciplinary collaborations will be needed to successfully implement this technique to the wild.
Original article: Ben-Nun et al. Induced pluripotent stem cells from highly endangered species. Nature Methods 8, 829–831 (2011) doi:10.1038/nmeth.1706
News and views : Selvajar et al. Nature Methods 8, 805–807 (2011) doi:10.1038/nmeth.1715