Genome resource banking (GRB) is defined as the methodical collection, storage, and distribution of genes from threatened and endangered species.
Genetic material from rare and endangered species can be collected and preserved indefinitely in liquid nitrogen (-196°C). The storage of genetic material in a genome resource bank safeguards a species against risks such as disease outbreaks and catastrophic disasters that can result in the loss of genetic diversity. The collection and cryopreservation of genes in the form of sperm can potentially permit the reintroduction of genes into a population via assisted reproductive technologies such as artificial insemination and/or embryo transfer.
To maximize the amount of genetic material stored in genome resource banks, SEZARC scientists study and optimize species-specific sperm cryopreservation protocols. A unique aspect of genome resource banking is known as “gamete rescue.” If an animal dies, but the testes can be recovered and shipped to SEZARC labs within 24 hours, then viable sperm can be recovered and cryopreserved. This ensures that the genes from an individual are not lost from the population. For example, SEZARC has rescued and cryopreserved sperm from a number of Florida panthers killed by vehicular trauma or intraspecific aggression, safeguarding their genes for the future.
Although genome resource banking is often associated with cryopreserved sperm, it is important to remember that genome resource banking may also involve storing other biological samples such as whole blood, blood products, tissue, urine, etc. These biomaterials can be an important resource for future research, including epidemiological studies of disease, nutrition analyses, and genetic studies, as well as developing technologies such as cloning. As a result, a repository of biological samples can be an important resource for an endangered species. SEZARC maintains a bank of these important samples from a range of mammalian species, including the cheetah, okapi, white rhino, gerenuk, and other antelope species.