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Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 26(1)

Mammalian fertility preservation through cryobiology: value of classical comparative studies and the need for new preservation options

Pierre Comizzoli A B and David E. Wildt A

A Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, National Zoological Park, PO Box 37012 MRC 5502, Washington, DC 20013, USA.
B Corresponding author. Email: comizzolip@si.edu

Reproduction, Fertility and Development 26(1) 91-98 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/RD13259
Published: 5 December 2013


 
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Abstract

Human-related fertility preservation strategies have enormous potential for helping sustain and protect other species, especially to assist managing or ‘rescuing’ the genomes of genetically valuable individuals, including endangered species. However, wider-scale applications are limited by significant physiological variations among species, as well as a lack of fundamental knowledge of basic reproductive traits and cryosensitivity. Systematic and comparative cryopreservation studies (e.g. on membrane biophysical properties and resilience to freezing temperatures) are required to successfully recover gametes and gonadal tissues after thawing and eventually produce healthy offspring. Such data are currently available for humans and a few laboratory and livestock animals, with virtually all other species, including wildlife, having gone unstudied. Interestingly, there also are commonalities among taxa that allow a protocol developed for one species to provide useful information or guidance for another. However, when a rare animal unexpectedly dies there is no time for a prospective understanding of that species’ biophysical traits. Because the odds of success will be much lower in such instances, it is essential that more fundamental studies be directed at more species. But also worthwhile is thinking beyond these systematic characterisations to consider the potential of a ‘universal preservation protocol’ for animal biomaterials.

Additional keywords: biobanking, endangered species, gametes, gonadal tissues, long term storage, universal protocol.


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