Cryopreservation of threatened native Australian species—what have we learned and where to from here?
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Cryogenic storage techniques have been developed and adopted for more than 100 (mainly agricultural) plant species worldwide, and within Australia, at least 30 critically endangered plants have been stored long term using cryogenic approaches. Nevertheless, there are many species that are very difficult to store using current procedures, and organizations involved in plant germplasm conservation (such as botanic gardens, agricultural institutions, etc.) that utilise cryogenic storage techniques are in some respects at a crossroads in their endeavours to cheaply and effectively store a wide selection of species and genotypes for conservation and agricultural/horticultural purposes. For taxa that are not amenable to current cryogenic approaches, new ways of developing cryogenic storage techniques need to be investigated, including research into the ways in which cell membranes interact and change when cooled to cryogenic temperatures (−196°C in liquid nitrogen) in the presence of various cryoprotective agents. This review highlights the current state of cryogenic research both within Australia and internationally, provides a case study on threatened plant species and also describes several new research initiatives that aim to provide answers to why some native species are quite amenable to widely utilised cryogenic approaches whilst others are currently non-responsive. New approaches aim to integrate laboratory and membrane modelling paradigms to provide guidelines for the development of new cryopreservation protocols and to assess the robustness of theoretical models in predicting optimum cryogenic conditions.
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