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10 odd ways we protect endangered species

DNA samples

Photo: dra_schwartz/iStockphoto

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Freezing DNA

The San Diego Zoo began collecting skin samples from rare animals in 1972 as part of its Frozen Zoo, and today the “zoo” contains samples from more than 8,400 animals and consists of DNA, semen, ova, embryos and blood.

When the Frozen Zoo project began, it wasn’t known how the animal samples would be used because genetic technology was in its infancy. However, scientists today have succeeded in taking samples of the skin cells and turning them into a type of stem cell known as induced pluripotent stem cells. A breakthrough came in June when researchers were able to turn the IPS cells of a silver-maned drill monkey — Africa’s most endangered monkey — into brain cells.