The Science

Nature’s SAFE - Committed to Saving Animals from Extinction Using Pioneering Science

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Nature’s SAFE is Europe’s first animal tissue bank dedicated specifically for the preservation of endangered animal biological samples for future animal regeneration. We are the leaders in storing somatic cells (non-reproductive cells) and gametes (reproductive cells) from endangered animals in a way that ensures their viability for future regeneration.  

Species Regeneration Via Preserved Reproductive Cells

 

At Nature’s SAFE, we specialise in harvesting post-castration epididymal semen from multiple species. This technique refers to the extraction of sperm cells from the testicular sperm storage site, the epididymis, post-castration of the animal. Whether castration is for breeding control purposes or following death of the animal, post-castration epididymal semen extraction provides a valuable means of capturing and preserving semen samples from endangered species that would otherwise be lost from species conservation strategies.

Once extracted, the semen undergoes specialised and species-specific processing to enable its cryopreservation. In the future, the semen can then be thawed out and used to establish pregnancies via assisted reproductive techniques. Methods to collect mature egg cells from ovaries are also being developed to permit female reproductive cell preservation.

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Species Regeneration Via Ovarian & Testicular Tissue Preservation

 

For situations where preservation of sperm and egg cells are not possible, Nature’s SAFE also specialises in preservation of ovarian and testicular tissue. These tissues can be collected and cryopreserved after scheduled castrations/sterilisations or death of the animal. In the future, the tissue can then be thawed and cultured to produce egg and sperm cells. One goal of Nature’s SAFE is to develop protocols for many species to generate reproductive cells for use in future breeding programmes. 

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Species Regeneration Via Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells

 

The most pioneering technique within the field of assisted reproductive technologies is the use of induced pluripotent stem cells. These are naïve cells which can be directed to form a specific cell type. Under the right conditions, skin cells can be turned into induced pluripotent stem cells which can then be directed to grow into sperm and egg cells. These reproductive cells can then be used in endangered species breeding programmes. Via specialised cell reprogramming techniques, Nature’s SAFE will be working towards establishing multi-species methods of sperm and egg cell production from preserved skin cell tissue.

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* The rhino is simply for illustration only, and the strategies described above are applicable for all species