Oliver Ryder, Kleberg Endowed Director of Conservation Genetics at San Diego Zoo Global joins the podcast to discuss the Frozen Zoo, the world’s largest, most diverse, most characterized, and most utilized collection of its kind.
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Only within the last 60 years or so has it been possible to grow animal cells in the lab, freeze them, and revive them in a way that allows them to resume their function. This technology has made a huge contribution to the field of genomics and conservation science, allowing for a better understanding of the evolution of life, errors in the transmission of chromosomes that cause disease, extinction risks of certain species, and genetic diseases in endangered species to provide better health care and prevent extinction.
The Frozen Zoo in San Diego was founded by physician Kurt Benirschke with the goal of helping to conserve endangered species. It now contains cells of 10,000 individual vertebrates (fishes, reptiles, amphibians, birds, mammals) and 1,200 species. This, however, is just the tip of the iceberg; the goal is to continue adding to this collection until samples of all 60,000-70,000 vertebrate species have been obtained.
Ryder discusses many fascinating topics, including the collection of several high priority species samples, the increasing need to integrate efforts to save species in natural habitats that are preserved in human care, how scientists can access the database of frozen genetic samples, the Vertebrate Genome Project, how the genetic sequencing of animal genomes can provide interesting insight into human disease assessment, the ethical aspects of this type of work, and more.
For more information, visit institute.sandiegozoo.org.