Several wild species are endangered due to environmental changes derived from the continuous consumption of natural resources and the growth of human population. Therefore, conservation efforts based of Assisted Reproductive Technologies have received renewed attention as possible safeguard for species with uncertain future in the wild. In particular in vitro technologies such as oocyte maturation, fertilization/ICSI, embryo culture and embryo cryopreservation can be effective tools to counteract the decline of species in danger of extinction.
Since a few years Avantea collaborates with international partners to extend his experience to the field of endangered species. In particular Avantea has contributed to complete the first crucial step for the conservation of the Northern White Rhino (NWR). Viable embryos, ready for a future transfer to a surrogate of the Southern White Rhino (SWR) species, and embryonic stem cell lines were obtained from hybrid NWR-SWR embryos. These scientific results were published in 2018 in Nature Communications article.
In light of this success, the Ministry of Science in Germany , where is located the Berlin Zoo , partner of Avantea, has decided to support the project for the rescue of the Northern White Rhinoceros (BioRescue) with a grant of 4.2 million euro. The future will see Avantea at the forefront of conservation efforts providing his extensive expertise and technical leadership in ART to international partners committed to safeguarding wild species.
The use of animal model in biomedical research helps to better understand the mechanism of a particular disease as they offer an approximation of human disease, contributing to the development of treatments and strategy for preventions.
The pig, for its physiological characteristics, is the closest to humans after primates. Having an intermediate model between human and mouse is becoming mandatory also for the validation of new therapies and there is consensus in the international scientific community that the pig represents the most suitable mammalian model for this purpose, due to the similarity in size, physiology, organ development and progression of certain kind of disease.
At present Avantea is one of the few companies in Europe mastering the technology that allows to create pig models customized for specific research areas. A list of the available pig lines is shown here.
The ongoing research projects span from congenital conditions to acquired diseases requiring a combination of gene editing strategies and somatic cloning
GEquine embryos produced by in vitro technologies, such as OPU-ICSI, can be screened at Avantea for sex determination before embryo transfer or embryo freezing. This procedure is based on the molecular analysis of a few embryonic cells that can be collected as a tiny biopsy without any damage to the embryo itself.
However, sex determination is only one of the purposes for molecular analysis of the genomic makeup of the embryo. In cattle for instance, the technology is already applied by several laboratories providing ART in Europe and USA, whereby the embryos can be screened for a number of positive genomics traits for health, fertility, lifespan and also negative and disease traits. In horses it is envisaged that genetic screening can be a valuable tool to counteract the spread of negative or disease traits within a given population by avoiding the transfer of embryos carrying undesired traits. The optimization of the methods for screening preimplantation equine embryos, including positive genomics traits, can be a reachable aim in the coming years.