It would be much better to be able to save snow leopards by preserving their habitat, but with seven billion humans on Earth, and that number increasing to eight billion by 2030, stem cells might prove to be very helpful if their populations are driven down to perilous levels.
Scientists at Australia’s Monash University were able to create embryonic stem-like cells from the tissue of an adult snow leopard. The pluripotent stem (iPS) cells they generated could be used to clone snow leopards in the future or for purposes of reproduction via a lab procedure where an embryo is created by humans, and then planted in a surrogate.
“The power of stem cells is that they can differentiate into all the cell types in the body. This means, they have the potential to become gametes. In fact, mouse iPS cells have given rise to entire off-spring, so the possibilities are enormous,” said Dr. Paul Verma. (Source: Monash University) He also said he is applying the same techniques to other cats such as the Bengal tiger, jaguar and serval.
There are about 6,000 snow leopards remaining in the wild, according to the World wildlife Fund. Climate change alone could cause them to lose one third of their mountainous habitat, as rising temperatures cause snow to melt and dries soil. Habitat loss, poaching and revenge killing by villagers are some of the top threats to the rare cats.
Scientists at the San Diego Zoo have been experimenting with similar techniques. It was reported in September of 2011, they had been working with cells from an endangered rhino and two primate species.
One of the main contributors to climate change is livestock agriculture, which generates over 50 percent of human-related greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, reducing or eliminating meat in one’s diet is an effective way to help decrease climate change.
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