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World
Scientists succeed in creating northern white rhino embryos
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Scientists succeed in creating northern white rhino embryos

Scientists succeed in creating northern white rhino embryos
Photo Credit: AP Photo/Antonio Calanni, File
FILE - In this Sunday, Aug. 25, 2019 file photo, a researcher works at the Avantea laboratory inseminating eggs from the last two remaining female of northern white rhinos with frozen sperm from two rhino bulls of the same species, in Cremona, Italy. An international consortium of scientists and conservationists says they have succeeded in creating two embryos of the near-extinct northern white rhino, a milestone in assisted reproduction that may be a pivotal turning point in the fate of the species. The embryos were created in-vitro, using eggs collected from the two remaining females and frozen sperm from dead males, they said at a news conference in the Italian northern city of Cremona on Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni, File )

Scientists succeed in creating northern white rhino embryos

Scientists announced Wednesday they have succeeded in creating two embryos of the near-extinct northern white rhino as part of an international effort to save the species, which is down to just two animals worldwide, both of them female.

The embryos, created in the lab with eggs taken from the females and frozen sperm from dead males, are now stored in liquid nitrogen, to be transferred into a surrogate mother — a southern white rhino — in the near future.

"Today we achieved an important milestone on a rocky road which allows us to plan the future steps in the rescue program of the northern white rhino," said Thomas Hildebrandt of the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Germany.

The institute is part of an international consortium of scientists and conservationists that has been planning and developing the procedure for years.

The ultimate goal is to create a herd of at least five animals that could be returned to their natural habitat in Africa. That could take decades.

Decades of poaching have taken a heavy toll on the northern white rhino and other rhino species. The animals are killed for their horns, which have long been used as carving material and prized in traditional Chinese medicine for their supposed healing properties.

The last male northern white rhino was a 45-year-old named Sudan, who gained fame in 2017 when he was listed as "The Most Eligible Bachelor in the World" on the Tinder dating app as part of fundraising effort. Sudan, named for the country where he was born in the wild, was euthanized in 2018 because of age-related ills.

The creation of the embryos was achieved at Cremona's Avantea Laboratories. Cesare Galli and his team extracted five immature egg cells from each of the remaining females, Najin and Fatu, who live at a conservancy in Kenya.

After being incubated, seven of those cells matured and were suitable for fertilization. Two of the fertilized eggs developed into viable embryos.

"Five years ago it seemed like the production of a northern white rhino embryo was an almost unachievable goal — and today we have them," said Jan Stejskal, director of communication at the Dvur Králové Zoo in the Czech Republic, where Najin and Fatu were born. "This fantastic achievement of the whole team allows us to be optimistic over our next steps."

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Update 2:30 p.m. EDT Sept. 13: Huffman appeared in a courtroom on the third floor of the federal courthouse in Boston on Friday for a sentencing hearing. Her husband, actor William H. Macy, was also in the courthouse, according to WFXT. He has not been charged as part of the case. Update 2 p.m. EDT Sept. 13: Huffman arrived at the federal courthouse in Boston on Friday afternoon ahead of her scheduled sentencing hearing. Original report: Prosecutors have asked U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani to sentence the 'Desperate Housewives' actress to one month in prison and supervised release, citing her deliberate and repeated deception of her daughter's high school, the college entrance exam system and college administrators. They have also asked she be fined $20,000. 'Her efforts weren't driven by need or desperation, but by a sense of entitlement, or at least moral cluelessness, facilitated by wealth and insularity,' prosecutors said last week in a sentencing memo filed in court. Authorities said Huffman coordinated with Singer to convince test administrators to give her daughter extended time to take the SAT in 2017, citing a 'learning difference.' She arranged to have her daughter take the test at a center affiliated with Singer, where her answers were altered to boost her score by about 400 points, prosecutors said. 'She could buy her daughter every conceivable legitimate advantage, introduce her to any number of useful personal connections, and give her a profound leg up on the competition simply because she would be applying to college as the daughter of a movie star,' prosecutors said in the sentencing memo. 'But Huffman opted instead to use her daughter's legitimate learning differences in service of a fraud on the system, one that Huffman knew, by definition, would harm some other student who would be denied admission because Huffman's daughter was admitted in his or her place, under false pretenses.' Attorneys for Huffman have asked Talwani to sentence her to one year of probation, 250 hours of community service and a $20,000 fine, calling the incident out of character and noting her remorse for her part in the admissions scheme. 'In my desperation to be a good mother I talked myself into believing that all I was doing was giving my daughter a fair shot,' Huffman wrote in a letter to the court filed last week. 'I honestly didn't and don't care about my daughter going to a prestigious college. I just wanted to give her a shot at being considered for a program where her acting talent would be the deciding factor. That sounds hollow now, but, in my mind, I knew that her success or failure in theater or film wouldn't depend on her math skills. I didn't want my daughter to be prevented from getting a shot at auditioning doing what she loves because she can't do math.' Huffman is scheduled to appear Friday afternoon in the federal courthouse in Boston. Huffman was one of more than 50 people, including 34 parents, to be charged earlier this year with participating in the large-scale admissions scheme. Prosecutors said the parents involved paid Singer to bribe college coaches and rig test scores to get their children into elite universities. The scandal also led to the arrests of “Full House” actress Lori Loughlin and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, both of whom are fighting the charges. The amount Huffman paid is relatively low compared to other bribes alleged in the scheme. Some parents are accused of paying up to $500,000 to get their children into elite schools by having them labeled as recruited athletes for sports they didn't even play. Authorities say it's the biggest college admissions case ever prosecuted by the Justice Department, with a total of 51 people charged. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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