5 biotechnologies that might help save endangered species

Joseph Wachira comforts Sudan, the last male northern white rhino, before he died on March 19 in Kenya. Image credit: Ami Vitale, CNN

Here are five expanding and emergent fields of biotech that could help safeguard nature:

1. Biobanking. Biobanks store biological samples for research and as a backup resource to preserve genetic diversity. Examples include the San Diego Frozen Zoo, the Frozen Ark projects, and numerous seed banks. Samples provide tissues, cell lines, and genetic information that can form the basis for restoring and recovering endangered wildlife.

2. Genomics. The rapidly falling costs of genome sequencing has sparked initiatives to sequence the genomes of all living species, and thanks to improved ancient DNA methods the genomes of extinct species such as the woolly mammoth, thylacine, and passenger pigeon are also attainable.


3. Biosynthesis. [This process] can reduce the commercial need to extract biological products from wild species.

4. Reproductive technologies. Cloning could be a game-changer when it comes to helping recovering and critically imperiled mammals.


Related article:  Why the cockroach is hard to kill—and what its genetics teaches us about adapting to environments

5. Gene drive. […]To address the problem of invasive rodents, a gene drive could be applied to alter the sex ratio of an island population of rats so that they become all male and fail to breed. The same process could eliminate vectors of disease, such as mosquitoes, which would save birds from avian malaria.

With the right genetic tools and dedicated collaboration, we may be able to turn the tide on wildlife extinction.


Editor’s note: Nishan Degnarain is the managing director at Breakthrough Ocean Ventures. Ryan Phelan is the executive director of Revive & Restore

Read full, original post: Commentary: These Technologies Could Save the Northern White Rhino From Extinction

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