Friday, 28 October 2011

Major technique that could help generate young animals using the eggs and sperm of dead endangered or wild animals

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: Ever wondered that a dead animal could give life to
young ones. Scientists at the city-based Centre for Cellular and
Molecular Biology have developed a major technique that could help
generate young animals using the eggs and sperm of dead endangered or
wild animals.

The CCMB’s technique will also help protect endangered or wild animals
from possible extinction by perpetuating their generation. It involves
harvesting of eggs and sperm from dead wild animals and
cryopreservation for use in future to generate stem cells and
propagate endangered species through cloning.

As endangered animals face the threat of extinction, harvesting of
eggs and sperm from the dead ones is a major step forward in
conserving scores of rare wildlife species for future generations. The
CCMB team has not only obtained the egg cells (oocytes) from the
ovaries of the dead animals, but also successfully fertilised them in
laboratory to produce embryos.

"Our research is quite unique as we are utilising testes and ovaries
of dead endangered animals, which otherwise would have gone waste.
Using them we have produced embryos. But we could not move to the next
step of transferring the embryos from the laboratory to the animal
womb for want of permission. We have successfully demonstrated that
ovaries and testes of even the dead animals can be used to produce
their offspring at a later date," Dr S Shivaji, CCMB scientist
incharge of Laboratory for Conservation of Endangered Species (LaCONES).

The oocytes would have implications in conservation of endangered
animals since they can be cryopreserved. These oocytes could be used
to generate embryos, which in turn could be useful to make young ones
by embryo transfer. The embryos could also serve as a source for stem
cells, while embryonic cells could also be used for nuclear transfer
to generate young ones by cloning, Dr Shivaji said.

The CCMB scientists involved in the research project were Dr
Brahmasani Sambasiva Rao, Dr Yelisetti Uma Mahesh, Uthanda Raman
Lakshmikantan, Komjeti Suman and Katari Venu Charan, besides Dr
Shivaji. Oocytes rescued from spotted deer and black buck have been
cryopreserved at LaCONES. An ovary may yield as many as 30 eggs
depending on the age of the dead animal.

"The ability to rescue gametes from endangered or wildlife species and
to subsequently produce viable embryos holds tremendous potential as a
means to increase the population size of endangered or wildlife
species," Dr Shivaji said adding that its difficult to obtain oocytes
from live animals as it is an invasive process for which the
government may not give permission.

Application of reproductive biotechnologies for the preservation of
endangered mammalian species is limited by several factors such as the
lack of availability of species-specific biological material required
for a better understanding of the fundamental biology of the male and
female
gametes.

"It is in this context that rescue of gametes from wild or endangered
animals that have died unexpectedly is a worthwhile research tool for
understanding the fundamental physiology of the species concerned and
also for development of species-specific protocols for application of
new emerging assisted reproductive technologies in endangered
species," Dr Shivaji pointed out.

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