Scientists hope to save near-extinct rhinos by transforming cells

They hope that converted cells and in vitro fertilization will save the animal from oblivion.

Nichole Sobecki for The Washington Post via Getty Images

The northern white rhinoceros is in far worse straits than most rhinos. There are just three members of the species left, and they can't breed normally -- if nothing happens, extinction is guaranteed. And that's leading researchers to try a dramatic technological solution to keep the northern white rhino around. They're planning to transform both frozen and living rhino cells into stem cells that could grow into eggs and sperm for the in vitro fertilization of a surrogate southern white rhino. This would not only resurrect the species, but create enough diversity that the new population should survive in the wild.

Of course, planning a revival and achieving it aren't one and the same. The technique might require growing the cells alongside tissue from other animals, and there's no guarantee that you'd get a healthy rhino on the other end. Also, zoos don't always have the many millions of dollars needed to make this project happen. If everything comes together, though, it could prove that science has what it takes to bring a species back from the brink.