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Old 09-10-2010, 10:35 AM   #1
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Default The Frozen Zoo aiming to bring endangered species back from the brink

The Frozen Zoo aiming to bring endangered species back from the brink
San Diego Zoo began collecting skin samples from rare animals in 1972 in the hope they might be used to protect these endangered species in the future. A breakthrough in stem-cell technology means that day is getting closer
Paul Harris
The Observer, Sunday 29 August 2010

The Frozen Zoo aiming to bring endangered species back from the brink | Environment | The Observer
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The inside of a metal box filled with liquid nitrogen and frozen to -173C (-280F) is hardly the ideal habitat for a large African mammal. But, as a test tube is fished out of the frigid container amid a billowing cloud of white gas, a note written on its side is unequivocal about its contents. "This is a northern white rhino," says Scripps research scientist Inbar Ben-Nun as she reads out the label and holds the freezing vial with thick gloves that look like industrial-grade oven mitts.

Ben-Nun is holding no ordinary scientific sample. For the frozen cells in that test tube could one day give rise to baby northern white rhinos and help save the species from extinction. They would be living specimens of one of the most endangered species on Earth, who after a few months would be trotting into wildlife parks, and maybe, just maybe, helping repopulate their kind on the African grasslands. No wonder that the place where the sample came from is called the Frozen Zoo.

The Frozen Zoo was founded in 1972 at San Diego Zoo's Institute for Conservation Research as a repository for skin-cell samples from rare and endangered species. At the time that the first samples were collected and put into deep freeze it was not really known how they would be used and genetic technology was in its infancy. But there was a sense that one day some unknown scientific advance might make use of them and it was better to be safe than sorry. Now, thanks to a team at the nearby Scripps Research Institute...
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