Biobanks / German Cell Bank for Wildlife

Core Competencies

  • Preparation of cell cultures
  • Long-term storage through cryopreservation

Die Sammlung vitaler Stammzellkulturen von Wildtieren

The Deutsche Zellbank für Wildtiere "Alfred Brehm“ - Cryo Brehm is a biomaterial bank specializing in the collection and cryopreservation of reproducible cell cultures from wild animals. The initiative was launched by the Fraunhofer Research Institution for Marine Biotechnology and Cell Engineering (EMB) in Lübeck, the Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Engineering (IBMT), the Hagenbeck Zoo in the Hanseatic City of Hamburg and the Zoological Garden of the Hanseatic City of Rostock. In the meantime, other zoos and institutions have joined the project.

The common goal of all partners involved is to preserve the biological information of the species in the form of living cell cultures capable of reproduction. Thus, a biological collection is started, which is to be preserved and continued for generations. The cell bank thus represents a continuation of classical natural history collections based on the latest cell biological knowledge and technological developments. The conservation of animal genetic resources is not a substitute for species conservation, but it fulfills an essential requirement of Article 9 of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). This calls for the collection of biological materials as a form of ex situ conservation of species.  

Zoos and zoological parks provide the tissue samples needed for cell culture production. No animal need suffer or be killed for the purpose of tissue collection. Only samples from animals that have died naturally or had to be euthanized due to disease are used. Furthermore, placental tissue and tissue from planned interventions (e.g. ear tagging) can be used.

The basis for the production of the cell cultures are procedures for the production of adult stem cell cultures, which were developed and patented by the Fraunhofer EMB. The technical basis is the outstanding know-how and extensive experience of the Fraunhofer IBMT in the field of cryobanking. The project is funded by the Possehl Foundation in Lübeck and the state of Schleswig-Holstein. The cells are stem or progenitor cells isolated from tissues of adult organisms.

These stem cells have two remarkable properties:

  • They can be propagated in cell culture over a very long period of time.
  • They can differentiate into many different cell types.

These properties open up the possibility of creating a versatile, long-term and sustainably useful biological collection. This is because, due to the cells' ability to multiply, an almost unlimited number of copies can be made of each sample. Therefore, the collection can already be used for a variety of scientific purposes AND passed on in its entirety to future generations. The archive can be used by scientists worldwide to investigate basic or applied scientific questions. Thus, the cell archive can contribute to fundamental understanding of species, species conservation, environmental monitoring, and medical research.


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