University of Newcastle researchers have successfully developed a method to freeze frog embryonic cells in a world-first breakthrough that could slow the threat of extinction to hundreds of frog species.
The researchers have separated, isolated and frozen the embryonic cells of an Australian Ground Frog (the Striped Marsh Frog, Limnodynastes peronii), using cryopreservation techniques that will now allow for cloning.
This is the first time anyone in the world has successfully used slow-freezing techniques on amphibian cells, project leader at the University of Newcastle, Professor Michael Mahony, said.
“Almost 200 frog species have been lost in the past 30 years due to disease and a further 200 species face imminent threat – this is the worst rate of extinction of any vertebrate group,” he said.
“Amphibian eggs and early embryos, unlike human eggs and embryos, are large in size and have traditionally presented a challenge to researchers attempting to cryo-preserve and store frog genomes, as they would shatter during the freezing process.
“The new technique, developed by our University of Newcastle researchers, will act as an insurance policy to buy us time for species on the edge of extinction, as we search for answers to diseases and other threats.”
Professor Mahony said the development would have wider implications for other species facing extinction.
“Not only will it help us preserve the genetic diversity of frogs, but this discovery could also help in the conservation of other species with large embryonic cells, such as fish.”
The University of Newcastle is leading the world on research into amphibian protection. This latest discovery follows on from recent work with other universities on the Lazarus project, which generated live embryos using cells from an extinct Australian frog.
The technical work was led by Dr John Clulow and Professor Michael Mahony, alongside Ms Bianca Lawson and Mr Simon Clulow.