Several species still have become extinct, and some are in danger of going extinct. We are getting short of the treasures of nature. How can we save this treasure? The glory of species can be preserved by establishing forest zoos that protect the cells of extinct animals at freezing temperatures.
Kurt Benirschke started collecting skin samples of the animals on the verge of extinction and saving them. But he was unsure whether this step could make any change or advancement in the coming years. He started collecting samples in 1972 at the University of California San Diego. Later, his samples were shifted to the zoo and named Frozen Zoo.
He believed that the steps taken at a particular time could serve a purpose in the future that no one knows. The cells were stored at -173oC. Even Benirschke’s collaborator agrees, “You must collect things for reasons you don’t yet understand.” It is the result of their belief that today Frozen Zoo is the world’s largest cryobank for about 10,500 animal samples from 1,220 species.
The earlier steps have already been taken in genetics by using the preserved samples to create the clones. The cloned sheep known as Dolly in 1996 was the first attempt. In addition, scientists have cloned four other extinct species from the Frozen Zoo genetic samples. These species were Indian Guar, an Asian wild ox; the Banteng, a cattle; Przewalski’s horse and the Black-footed ferret. However, this cloning has not provided great success as the Indian Guar lived for only 48 hours.
The Frozen Ark has a similar aim, but the difference is that Benirschke preserves the skin samples, and The Frozen Ark works with the DNA samples. The animals can not be cloned from DNA, but it can be used for other scientific information and blueprints of animal species, such re-growth of limbs. Further, The Frozen Ark has a network of 24 institutes distributed globally to collect different samples and share knowledge. The Frozen Ark has more DNA samples, i.e., 48000 samples from 5,500 species. And the DNA samples are stored at lower temperatures than that required for cells. The DNA is stored at -326OC.
Benirschke’s efforts have come closer with the help of Scripps Research Institute and The Frozen Ark. Scripps scientists have established the technique of producing IPS cells, i.e., induced pluripotent cells. Stem cells have the capability of producing egg cells and sperm cells. By using both cells, an embryo can be formed. Thus long ago, stored cells of extinct animals can be brought to life now. If the technique of IPS cells got successful, then the frozen cells not only serve the purpose of preserving cells but also serve to preserve the genetic pool for healthy reproduction.
These collections by Frozen Zoo and The Frozen Ark have an irreplaceable repository of rare animals.
Edited by: Ayona Mitra
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