University of Newcastle researchers leapfrog ahead in world-first

University of Newcastle researchers have successfully developed a method to freeze frog embryonic cells in a world-first breakthrough that could slow the threat of extinction to hundreds of frog species.

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Newcastle researchers leapfrog ahead in world-first

The researchers have separated, isolated and frozen the embryonic cells of an Australian ground frog (the Striped Marsh Frog, Limnodynastes peronii), using cryopreservation techniques that will now allow for cloning.

This is the first time anyone in the world has successfully used slow-freezing techniques on amphibian cells, project leader at the University of Newcastle, Professor Michael Mahony, said.

“Almost 200 frog species have been lost in the past 30 years due to disease and a further 200 species face imminent threat—this is the worst rate of extinction of any vertebrate group,” he said.

“Amphibian eggs and early embryos, unlike human eggs and embryos, are large in size and have traditionally presented a challenge to researchers attempting to cryo-preserve and store frog genomes, as they would shatter during the freezing process.

“The new technique, developed by our University of Newcastle researchers, will act as an insurance policy to buy us time for species on the edge of extinction, as we search for answers to diseases and other threats.”

Professor Mahony said the development would have wider implications for other species facing extinction.

“Not only will it help us preserve the genetic diversity of frogs, but this discovery could also help in the conservation of other species with large embryonic cells, such as fish.”

The University of Newcastle is leading the world on research into amphibian protection. This latest discovery follows on from recent work with other universities on the Lazarus project, which generated live embryos using cells from an extinct Australian frog.

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Science Programs at the University of Newcastle

The School of Environmental and Life Sciences (SELS) at the University of Newcastle is one of the largest schools in the university, and forms part of the Faculty of Science and Information Technology. Specializations offered through the school include

  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Development Studies
  • Environmental Science and Management
  • Geography and Environmental Studies
  • Earth Sciences
  • Food Science and Human Nutrition
  • Sustainable Resource Management
  • Exercise and Sports Science
  • Marine Science

This school generates enthusiasm for learning and research training that is unique because of the diverse and integrated specialties of the academics coupled with the availability of an impressive array of analytical equipment, laboratory facilities and field-research support resources.

The research and laboratory facilities are excellent and there are opportunities to develop multidisciplinary skills and build research networks via the nature of the diverse fields of expertise within the disciplines. Field work is a major component of many of the science degree programs and many opportunities exist to develop these skills in areas of geology, geography, ecology and marine biology.

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