Scientists at the Kyoto University Graduate School of Medicine have, fearing the extinction of such adorable creatures as the slow loris, created the world’s first sperm bank for endangered species. Using new freeze-drying techniques, as opposed to liquid nitrogen, researchers have successfully preserved the reproductive material of a loris, as well as a chimpanzee and a giraffe.
Associate professor Takehito Kaneko spent the better part of the last decade developing a buffer solution that would allow for the freeze-drying of the material in question, while still protecting the genetic information held within. Finally, the team was able to succesfully bring the sperm back to life by thawing it in water.
“This method preserves the sperm samples very well and technically we believe it is possible to store them for decades or even longer into the future,” Kaneko told The Daily Telegraph. Kaneko will now begin collecting samples from all 132 species at Kyoto’s city zoo, including endangered elephants, tigers, and rhinoceroses.
When asked whether there might be human applications for the new technology, Kaneko said, “It’s a long way in the future, of course, but if we can store this genetic information in this way it could be something that we can take into space.” The samples, he believes, could one day be used to create colonies on other planets.