If you could visit them you wouldn't find monkeys, lions or other exotic animals, but only steel tanks that protect the biological material of many animals, at risk of extinction or not. Frozen zoos (frozen zoos) have been storing for 40 years the genetic material taken from the animals: DNA, sperm, eggs, embryos and live tissue, stored between -170 and -225 ° C in liquid nitrogen (cryopreservation ) with the aim of safeguarding biodiversity.
Scattered around the world. In the most famous of these structures, in San Diego (USA), thousands of potential tigers, lions, wild cats, elephants, orangutans, rhinos, buffaloes, bears, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish sleep.
In recent years frozen zoos, like seed banks, have spread to various parts of the world: in Melbourne (Australia), in London (the Frozen ark project, with eight member countries), at the University of Nottingham (UK) and several others in America.
Unfortunately, there is still no real international network between the various institutes, with a catalog of preserved species, but it is estimated that all these structures have managed to secure at least 10 thousand samples of cells and tissues, from over 1, 000 species different.
The game of Creation. If what happened in John Hammond's Jurassic Park is considered scientifically impossible due to insufficiency (or damage) of the genetic material, in the near future, we could get eggs and sperm from biological tissues, create embryos and bring the animals back to life. This is what researchers at the Scripps Research Institute in San Diego have been able to get after obtaining induced pluripotent stem cells (IPS) from cryopreserved materials.Is it possible to create a backup of the earthly life to face a possible catastrophe? Where to store the precious treasure?
IPS are cells that can differentiate themselves to become any other type of cell. The Scripps researchers intend to use them to create gametes and then originate egg cells through in vitro fertilization. When the idea of frozen zoos was born, genetic technology was still in its infancy and it was not known how all the genetic specimens collected could have been used. Now, technology has overcome some limitations and would perhaps allow even extinct species to be brought back to life, but on this possibility the discussion on ethical problems is far from over.