Protecting and Extending Fertility for Females of Wild and Endangered Mammals
Sustaining viable populations of any wildlife species requires a combination of adequate habitat protection and a good understanding of environmental and biological factors (including reproductive mechanisms) that ensure species survival. Thousands of species are under threat of extinction due to habitat loss/degradation, over-exploitation, pollution, disease, alien species invasions and urban sprawl. This has served as incentive for intensive management of animal populations, both ex situ (in captivity) and in situ (living in nature). Assisted reproductive technologies developed for addressing human infertility and enhancing livestock production have shown encouraging promise in a few wildlife species. However, species-specific physiological variations and a lack of fundamental knowledge have limited how these tools can be used to help rapidly re-build endangered species numbers. Despite limitations, there is enormous potential in applying human-related fertility preservation strategies to wild animals, especially approaches that could assist managing or ‘rescuing’ the genomes of genetically valuable individuals. Indeed, one of the highest priorities in wildlife ex situ management is sustaining all existing genetic diversity to (1) preserve heterozygosity to avoid inbreeding depression and (2) ensure species integrity and the persistence of genomic adaptability to environmental changes. There are components of the rapidly emerging field of oncofertility in women that are highly compatible with preserving valuable genomes of individuals or populations of threatened wildlife. Strategies associated with ovarian tissue cryopreservation and follicle in vitro culture are especially attractive for protecting and extending fertility for wild females. Given adequate attention and more basic studies, we predict that these approaches could assist in the intensive and practical management of gene diversity in endangered species.
KeywordsOvarian Tissue Assisted Reproductive Technology Fertility Preservation Giant Panda Primordial Follicle
This research was supported by the oncofertility consortium NIH 8UL1DE019587, 5RL1HD058296.
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