August 19, 2010

Scientists Create Frozen Coral Cells Bank

U.S. scientists have created the first bank of frozen coral cells in order to try and preserve endangered coral species in Hawaii.

The banks contain frozen sperm and embryonic cells from mushroom coral and rice coral, but researchers say they are planning to expand the cell library with other Hawaiian coral species.

"Because frozen banked cells are viable, the frozen material can be thawed one, 50 or, in theory, even 1,000 years from now to restore a species or population," Mary Hagedorn, a faculty member at Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, told AFP news.

"In fact, some of the frozen sperm samples have already been thawed and used to fertilize coral eggs to produce developing coral larvae," she said.

The project is located on Coconut Island in Oahu and is a joint program of the Smithsonian Institution and the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
The researchers said that the state's reefs are threatened because of the pollution from run-off from farms and plants, and destructive practices like dynamite fishing.

"Unless action is taken now, coral reefs and many of the animals that depend on them may cease to exist within the next 40 years, causing the first global extinction of a worldwide ecosystem during current history," they told AFP.


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