Embryonic stem cells may help in saving snow leopards: City scientist


LUCKNOW: The cultivation of embryonic stem-like cells made up from the tissue of an adult leopard, by Rajneesh Verma, has come as a ray of hope for scientists working to save the snow leopard. Rajneesh, a native of Lucknow is presently working at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia.

Rajneesh has pursued his studies from City Montessori School (till Class X) and Colvin Taluqdar’s (Class 12). After this he went to Australia from where he completed his BSc in biotechnology from Monash University. Having got a scholarship, he then joined MSc biotechnology, and is now a PhD student at Monash Institute of Medical Research (MIMR).

Elated on the discovery, his brother Maneesh said, “Rajneesh was fascinated with big cats since childhood. His findings prove that he is concerned about the extinction of the animal and hence putting all his efforts to save them. He will now apply the stem cell technique to other members of cat family, including the Bengal Tiger, and Jaguar.”

This study has been published in an international journal, Theriogenology. Rajneesh was supervised by Dr Paul Verma, also from MIMR.

It was through the use of ear tissue samples from adult snow leopards at Mogo Zoo, in New South Wales, Australia, that the researchers have generated induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) cells which share many properties of embryonic stem cells. Verma said that it is for the first time that iPS cells have been generated from a member of a cat family. According to him, the finding raises the possibility of cryopreservation of genetic material for future cloning and other assisted reproduction techniques.

The researchers said that the finding is significant as obtaining reproductive cells, or gametes, even from animals in captivity is a herculean task. Elaborating how the stem cell can save snow leopard, Verma said, “Stem cells can well differentiate between various cell types in the body. In other words, these cells have the potential to convert into gametes. In fact, mouse iPS cells have given birth to entire offspring.” Hence, the study benefits the conservation of cat species, and biodiversity.

The researchers further added, “The first step in creating reproductive cells from adult tissues of an endangered animal has been accomplished by generating these stem cells. Next, we aim to harness the potential of iPS cells and create offspring. This will help to save species from extinction.”

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