Country’s first genetic resource bank, which could have far reaching implications in conservation and revival of extinct and endangered species in the near future, was inaugurated at Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology’s (CCMB) Laboratory of Conservation of Endangered Species (LaCONES) facility here on Sunday.
Dubbed as National Wildlife Genetic Resource Bank and inaugurated by Union Minister for Science and Technology and Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Dr. Harsh Vardhan, the genetic bank will cryopreserve living cell lines, gametes and embryos of endangered wild animal species in India.
Such a genetic bank will be a priceless resource material for conservation, taking up artificial reproduction, conducting studies in evolution biology and wildlife medicine. This is the first-of-its-kind facility in India where genetic material will be stored for posterity and will be a ready reckoner for future generations. Biotechnology research in basic Biology is developing at a very fast pace and in coming years, there will be a definite need for such resources.
To develop the facility from ground-up, the researchers from CCMB conducted a detailed study of Frozen Zoo, San Diego Zoo in the US, which is often referred to as world’s largest and most diverse genetic bank of living cell cultures, oocytes, sperms and embryos of extinct and endangered species. For cryogenic preservation, the researchers at CCMB-LaCONES use liquid Nitrogen that is cooled down to as low as minus 195 degrees Celsius. “You need certain kind of expertise to maintain such a facility. Our scientists had visited the Frozen Zoo and spent a lot of time with researchers there, learning techniques of cryopreservation. So far, genetic resources of 23 species of Indian wild animals have been collected and preserved at the bank. In the coming years, the authorities are aiming to collaborate with other leading zoos in the country to collect genetic resources of animals and increase the collection by at least five times.
The CCMB-LaCONES is the only laboratory in India that has developed methods for collection and cryopreservation of semen and oocytes from wildlife and successfully reproducing blackbuck, spotted deer and pigeons. The operating costs for maintaining such a genetic resource bank at CCMB-LaCONES will be around Rs 1 crore a year.