Japanese researchers from Kyoto University have recently opened a sperm bank for endangered animals. They are using a freeze-drying technology that is meant to preserve the animals’ sperm and help humans recreate animal populations on other planets, the chief researcher said.
The team of scientists from the University’s Institute of Laboratory Animals Graduate School of Medicine has previously succeeded in preserving sperm taken from two endangered primates and a type of giraffe, associate professor Takehito Kaneko said.
The sperm was mixed with preservation liquid and stored to only 4 degrees Celsius without damaging the organic components.
The scientists have previously successfully freeze-dried sperm from rats and mice without using liquid nitrogen. They could prove the viability of the spermatozoa up to five years later, the international press reports.
“In this way, scientists will be able to obtain genetic information more easily, which means we could help to preserve endangered animal species,” Kaneko said. “This may sound like a dream, but we could in future take genetic information into space. It may allow for the transfer of material to help establish animal populations on future colonies”, he added.
While the method works for the animal sperm, at the moment the technology has no human application, scientists said. However, they are working to develop it.
“Now we have to use fresh eggs or those frozen conventionally,” Kaneko said. “We are studying methods to freeze-dry eggs as well.”