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What is Cryoconservation and how it helps in the conservation of species?

Cryopreservation or cryo conservation is the storage of materials at ultra-low temperatures (-196°C) in liquid nitrogen.

By nayanikaphukan
New Update
Cryoconservation and how it helps in the conservation of species

Cryopreservation or cryo conservation is the storage of materials at ultra-low temperatures (-196°C) in liquid nitrogen. This is done either by very rapid cooling, as used for storing seeds, or by gradual cooling and, simultaneous dehydration as being done in tissue culture.

Read more: Cryopreservation - an overview | ScienceDirect Topics

Plant cryopreservation
Livestock germplasm being frozen in liquid nitrogen | Courtesy: USDA Gene Bank/Wikimedia Commons

Plant cryopreservation

Ex-situ(in position) storage plays an important role in the conservation of plant diversity. According to a paper published in Biodiversity and Conservation, cryopreservation is the only long-term ex-situ preservation method for plant species that cannot be stored in seed banks. Although no biological sample is immortal, the specimens in liquid nitrogen storage have indefinite lifespans. The paper studied the cryopreservation of a species of raspberries. The species once considered almost extinct was successfully conserved through the method of cryopreservation and later reintroduced in the wild.

Read more: Cryopreservation enables long‐term conservation of critically endangered species Rubus humulifolius

Animal cryopreservation

Another instance is the cryopreservation of animal cells. Animals at risk of extinction are having their reproductive cells stored at a major biobank. The best animal reproductive experts in the nation joined forces with scientists at the Chester Zoo in the UK to develop Nature's SAFE (Saving Animals From Extinction). One of Europe's largest living biobanks, Nature's SAFE is focused on conserving and renewing animal cells.

Read more: Saving the world’s rarest species from extinction with cryopreservation | Chester Zoo

Four different ecotypes of Physcomitrella patens stored at the IMSC
Four different ecotypes of Physcomitrella patens stored at the IMSC. (Scale bars: 1mm) | Courtesy: Lab of Ralf Reski/Wikimedia Commons

Eastern black rhino, mountain chicken frog, jaguar, and Javan green magpie are some of the highly threatened species that have been frozen at the biobank. According to scientists, small tissue samples from ovaries, testicles, and ears are taken from animals that have passed away at the zoo. These samples are then cryogenically frozen. At this extremely low-temperature point, time effectively comes to a complete stop, halting all cellular chemical reactions. In the cutie, these frozen samples can be utilized to revive a species that was once extinct on Earth.

Read more: Nature's SAFE - Saving species from extinction with cryopreservation - Chester Zoo

Conclusion

According to IUCN, more than 42,000 species are threatened with extinction. Anthropogenic activities are also known to have contributed to a large number of extinctions in the last years and humans are now amid a biodiversity crisis. Therefore, with better development and techniques these methods like cryopreservation can actually help in saving thousands of species from extinction.

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