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University of Wisconsin–Madison

Establishing proof-of-principle models for animal biodiversity biobanking

This project will preserve biodiversity by biobanking genetic material and regenerating species through somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) and inter-species SCNT. Adverse events such as climate change and habitat fragmentation are threatening biodiversity and will lead to an increase in species extinction. An extinct species is lost forever, but, in principle, molecular methods allow preservation of samples representing the species and, through SCNT-mediated cloning, the ability to regenerate an animal population. Preservation of nuclear samples and SCNT-mediated cloning approaches hold promise for regenerating critically endangered species and preserving biodiversity. The project also has important implications for in vitro organ production for regenerative medicine.

Previous attempts at inter-species SCNT have been unsuccessful when species are too distantly related. This project focuses on animal lineages of closely related species, such as the Danionin family of fish, which includes the extensively studied model organism Danio rerio (zebrafish). These studies will begin to determine parameters under which closely related species can be used as back up for each other through biopreservation, will explore low-cost and sustainable sample preservation methods, and will provide proof-of-principle for the biobanking and regeneration of an entire species. In order to better assess variables relevant to inter-species cloning, the project will also begin similar approaches in additional animal lineages: amphibians, such as tropical frogs, and pollinators, such as bees and bumblebees, many of which are becoming endangered and have essential roles in ecosystems and agriculture.

Francisco Pelegri, professor of genetics

Elizabeth Hennessy, assistant professor of history

William Murphy, associate professor of biomedical engineering

Paul Robbins, director of the Nelson Institute

Wesley Culberson, assistant professor of medical physics

Claudio Gratton, professor of entomology

Susan Paskewitz, professor and chair of entomology

Sean Schoville, assistant professor of entomology

James Thomson, director of regenerative biology at the Morgridge Institute