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Collection, isolation, and culture of somatic cells from avian semen

Posted on 14. January, 2014.

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Somatic cells recovered from avian semen could be used in chimera formation or cloning of endangered birds; especially important when a genetically unique animal dies and the only viable genetic material available is semen cryopreserved for artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization purposes. Although used in mammalian reproduction, this technology is lacking for avian semen. A minimally invasive technique to conserve avian genetic diversity is described that uses fresh avian semen from domestic chickens as a source of somatic cells, specifically fibroblast-like cells and epithelial cells, for cytological analysis and somatic cell gene banking.

Somatic cells in mammalian semen can be a potential source of nuclei for nuclear transfer to produce cloned animals. Somatic cells recovered from avian semen could also provide a source of cells for use in chimera formation or cloning of threatened and endangered birds. This type of assisted reproductive technology is especially important when a genetically unique animal has died and the only viable genetic material available is semen cryopreserved for artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization purposes. The usefulness of somatic cells obtained from fresh and frozen mammalian semen for nuclear transfer has already been evaluated, but still remains to be accomplished for avian semen. A non-invasive, or minimally invasive, technique to conserve avian genetic diversity via somatic cell collection from fresh avian semen, to our knowledge, has not been described. The present study investigated the use of fresh semen samples from domestic chickens (Gallus domesticus) (n = 7), i.e., white leghorn (n = 4) and silkie chickens (n = 3), as a source of somatic cells, specifically fibroblast-like cells and epithelial cells, for cytological analysis and somatic cell gene banking. Ultimately, somatic cell culture was successful for two of six selected samples (33.3%), with two of four white leghorn semen samples yielding cell cultures compared to 0 of 2 silkie chicken semen samples. Further research may include applying this technique to other avian species or address the effects of cryopreservation on the viability and DNA integrity of somatic cells derived in this manner.

Additional research on obtaining somatic cells from avian semen and refining the aforementioned cell culture technique appears warranted given the potential value of this approach for improving genetic diversity. In the future, research should be conducted on isolating somatic cells from cryopreserved avian semen of different species for assessing post-thaw cell viability and DNA integrity.

To read the full article in Avian Biology Research, click here.

doi: 10.3184/175815513X13801240386288

www.avianbiologyresearch.co.uk

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