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Mice cloning by freeze-drying cells

Mice cloning by freeze-drying cells

Tokyo: Japanese scientists have succeeded in producing cloned mice using freeze-dried cells, in a technique they believe may one day help preserve the species and overcome current challenges associated with using biobanking methods.

The United Nations has warned that the extinction of animals is accelerating in the world, and at least one million species may become extinct due to the effects of human activities such as climate change.

Specialized facilities have spread around the world to preserve samples of endangered species in order to prevent their extinction through future cloning.


These samples are generally preserved by refrigeration with liquid nitrogen, or at very low temperatures, both of which can be costly and prone to power outages.

Samples usually include sperm or egg cells that are difficult or impossible to obtain from older or sterile animals.

A group of scientists from Japan’s Yamanashi University wanted to see if they could find solutions to these problems by adopting a freeze-drying method on somatic cells, that is, cells that are not sperm or egg, in an attempt to produce clones.

The scientists carried out their experiments on two types of mice cells and found that although freeze drying kills them and causes significant damage to their DNA, they can still produce clonal blastocysts, a ball of cells that develop into an embryo.

Stem Cells

From these bags, the scientists extracted the stem cell sequences they used to produce 75 cloned mice.

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One of the mice lived for a year and nine months, while the scientists successfully married female and male clones from two naturally born mice and produced normal mice pups.

The cloned mice produced fewer offspring than would be expected from naturally born mice, while one of the stem cell sequences developed from male cells was produced only by cloned female mice.

“Evolution shouldn’t be difficult,” said Teruhiko Wakayama, a professor in Yamanashi University’s College of Life and Environmental Sciences who helped write the study, which was published in the journal Nature Communications last month.

“We believe that in the future we will be able to reduce deformities and increase the birth rate by looking for agents that protect against freezing and drying as well as improving drying methods,” he told AFP.

Some other obstacles emerged, for example, that the success rate of mice cloning from cells stored in liquid nitrogen or at very low temperatures ranges between 2 and 5%, while the success rate of the freeze-drying technique is limited to only 0.02%.

Wakayama saw that this technique is still in its early stages, comparing it to the research work that resulted in the cloning of the sheep “Dolly” in a process that succeeded after more than two hundred attempts.

“We think the most important thing is that the cloned mice were made from freeze-dried somatic cells, and that we’ve made significant progress in this area,” he said.

While the technology is not likely to replace cryopreservation completely, it represents an “important advance for scientists interested in threatened global biodiversity using biobanking methods”, stresses Simon Clolow, a senior research fellow at the University of Canberra’s Center for Environment and Genome Conservation.

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“Working on cryopreservation protocols can be difficult and expensive, so alternatives, especially those that are less expensive and more effective, are very welcome,” added Clolo, who was not involved in the study.

Storage of dried cells

The scientists in the study stored the freeze-dried cells at minus 30 degrees Celsius, but they had previously found that the sperm of freeze-dried mice could survive for at least a year at room temperature, and they believed that the somatic cells would react in the same way as well.

Wakayama explained that the technology could “ultimately allow genetic resources from around the world to be stored at a lower cost and more securely.”

This research work is an extension of years of research into cloning and freeze-drying techniques by Wakayama and colleagues.

One of their most recent research involved freeze-dried mouse sperm and sent to the International Space Station. The cells were successfully rehydrated after returning to Earth despite having been in space for six years, producing healthy young mice.