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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Short and Long Term Survival of Phylogenetically Diverse Organisms in Genebanks

Author
item Walters, Christina

Submitted to: American Association for the Advancement of Science Meeting
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: February 14, 2003
Publication Date: February 14, 2003
Citation: Walters, C., 2003. Short and long term survival of phylogenetically diverse organismsin genebanks. American Association for the Advancement of Science, Febuary 13-18, 2003, Denver, Colorado. p. S21-22.

Interpretive Summary: Genebanks are the embodiment of humans' desires to prolong life or to revive deceased life forms. Michael Crichton fantasizes about our abilities to reverse extinction in "Jurassic Park." Technological advances and investments in genebanks may issue a new era where life can be extended, though probably not as Crichton envisioned. In genebanks, living cells are placed in a state of suspended animation. The cells fail all of the criteria we usually associate with life (i.e., metabolism, growth, reproduction); but they persist, and resume normal functions once removed from the storage environment. Technologies developed to extend life in genebanks predominantly focus on mechanisms that allow cells to survive the extreme environments needed to stop chemical and physical reactions (very dry or very cold). These usually involve manipulation of the cell's aqueous environment and may someday lead to an answer for why water is essential for life. Research also questions whether reactions can truly be stopped in preserved cells. Long-term experiments conducted at our facility demonstrate that, contrary to current wisdom, cells continue to deteriorate under very dry or cryogenic - albeit slowly. Further, cryogenic conditions cannot halt aging that was initiated under less favorable conditions. Principles of tolerance to extreme environments and aging in the preserved state appear similar among phylogenetically diverse organisms. These commonalities allow the possibility of genebanking more than plants and vertebrates, the topic of this symposium. Thus, genebanks can be used as a conservation tool to help, as Aldo Leopold, father of wildlife management put it, "save all the pieces."

Technical Abstract: Genebanks are the embodiment of humans" desires to prolong life or to revive deceased life forms. Michael Crichton fantasizes about our abilities to reverse extinction in "Jurassic Park." Technological advances and investments in genebanks may issue a new era where life can be extended, though probably not as Crichton envisioned. In genebanks, living cells are placed in a state of suspended animation. The cells fail all of the criteria we usually associate with life (i.e., metabolism, growth, reproduction); but they persist, and resume normal functions once removed from the storage environment. Technologies developed to extend life in genebanks predominantly focus on mechanisms that allow cells to survive the extreme environments needed to stop chemical and physical reactions (very dry or very cold). These usually involve manipulation of the cell"s aqueous environment and may someday lead to an answer for why water is essential for life. Research also questions whether reactions can truly be stopped in preserved cells. Long-term experiments conducted at our facility demonstrate that, contrary to current wisdom, cells continue to deteriorate under very dry or cryogenic - albeit slowly. Further, cryogenic conditions cannot halt aging that was initiated under less favorable conditions. Principles of tolerance to extreme environments and aging in the preserved state appear similar among phylogenetically diverse organisms. These commonalities allow the possibility of genebanking more than plants and vertebrates, the topic of this symposium. Thus, genebanks can be used as a conservation tool to help, as Aldo Leopold, father of wildlife management put it, "save all the pieces."

Last Modified: 8/21/2014
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