Collaboration between the Institute of Laboratory Animals Graduate School of Medicine at Kyoto University and the Kyoto City Zoo led to creation of a sperm bank for endangered animals. Researchers announced on Tuesday that using freeze-drying technology they were able to preserve animal sperm, igniting hope for keeping endangered animals from going extinct.
Hidefusa Sakamoto, head of the section in charge of species preservation and exhibition in Kyoto City Zoo, believes that the technology will be useful in animal science. “Freeze-drying will provide a method for preserving the genes of endangered species,” he said. Associate Professor Takehito Kaneko also pointed out that through freeze-drying technology, “Scientists will be able to obtain genetic information more easily.”
Through the city zoo, sperm samples were taken from a chimpanzee, a giraffe, and another primate called ioris. Using freeze-drying, Kaneko said that the research team was able to store the sperm samples mixed with special preservation substance at 4 degrees. It was described to be non-conventional, as the method used higher temperatures yet required less energy. After a month of storage, the researchers found the sperm still viable to inseminate eggs. They only had to thaw the freeze-dried sperm samples in water.
Before applying the technology on the three animals, the researchers tried it first on sperm samples from rats and mice. The samples were freeze-dried for five years. The researchers now consider harvesting samples from 132 species at the Kyoto City Zoo for freeze-drying. They also reckon doing the same to animals’ egg cells. However, they will first have to submit a report to the Japan Society of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine at Kyoto University during its meeting on August 30.
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