The Future is Here? British Zoo Aims to Save Endangered Animals With Cryo-Freezing

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The Future is Here? British Zoo Aims to Save Endangered Animals With Cryo-Freezing
The Future is Here? British Zoo Aims to Save Endangered Animals With Cryo-Freezing

Africa-Press – Liberia. Cryogenics are used in a lot of different fields: from rocket science to the preservation and transportation of blood or vaccines. Some people even believe that cryogenic technologies may be a possible way to defeat death in some way – for example, by freezing the terminally ill until the moment in future when a cure is discovered.

Paignton Zoo in Devon is struggling to save endangered animals by using cryogenic technologies to freeze their genetic samples.

The zoo has teamed up with Nature’s SAFE in order to try and save the DNA of an estimated 40,000 species that are currently at risk of becoming extinct. In order to achieve that, the researchers will be using “unique processing and storage techniques” that will allow them to preserve multiple tissue and reproductive cell samples from the endangered species in a living state at -196oC.

Such samples are collected from animals that die or are neutered at the zoo, and the team expects that the partnership with Nature’s SAFE – one of Europe’s largest living biobanks – will help add critical samples to the 80 species that the biobank has already obtained.

“The challenges we face in species conservation mean we have to be innovative and forward thinking”, said Dr. Kirsten Pullen, Chief Science Officer at Wild Planet Trust – the company that runs the Devon zoo. “While we continue our efforts in captive breeding and conservation initiatives, working with Nature’s SAFE gives us an exciting opportunity to develop another tool to achieve our goal of halting species decline.”

According to Wild Planet Trust’s Steve Nash, “time is running out” for a lot of species, and the zoo’s initiative may act as a safeguard for such animals.

Due to the use of cryogenic technologies, these species can possibly be brought back to life with the use of their genetic material in “10, 20, 30, 1,000 years”, as put by Tullis Matson, co-founder of Nature’s SAFE.

“In theory, in years to come, we can turn that skin sample into a sperm and an egg, which is quite incredible. But the science is moving at such a rate, if we don’t freeze it now, we’ve lost those species forever,” he told Sky News.

Paignton Zoo is not the first one to launch such initiatives; a similar project was started by the San Diego zoo. It began collecting skin samples from rare animals in 1972, hoping they would be used in the future to protect the endangered species. The initiative was later named Frozen Zoo, and in 2020 it achieved a milestone of 10,000 cell lines cryo-frozen for the future.

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