2010 - 2014

Cryogenic storage and efficient recovery of avian genetic material

Principal Investigator: Fred Silversides, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
Status: In progress


To determine the feasibility of vitrifying, storing and transplanting avian gonad tissue, for the preservation of desirable genetics that may otherwise be lost.


The diversity of avian genetic resources is in decline. The number of breeding companies worldwide has decreased over the years, leaving just two in control of the majority of the world’s genetics for layers, broilers and turkeys. Neither of these companies is based in Canada. Some Canadian institutions involved in poultry research maintain flocks of genetic interest, but several of these lines have been, or may soon be, eliminated in the face of increasing costs and decreasing funds. The diversity of genetic resources available to industry and researchers is dwindling; there is a need to find cost-effective ways to preserve it. Freezing and storing semen has long been utilized as an economical way of preserving mammalian genetics for future use. So-called cryopreservation of avian sperm however, results in unpredictable fertility. While freezing mammalian eggs has become routine, the size and structure of the avian egg prevents its cryopreservation. Dr. Fred Silversides, formerly of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and his research group, propose an alternative method – utilizing the gonadal tissue of poultry.


Dr. Silversides and his colleagues developed and refined methods to collect testicular and ovarian tissues by vitrifying (using a 2-ml straw system) and storing them for extended periods. Steps were also taken to improve the viability of the tissues during thawing and upon transplantation to recipient birds. The researchers successfully transplanted viable gonad tissues into recipient birds, which, upon reaching sexual maturity, produced offspring derived from the transplanted tissue.


With the methods refined in this study, preservation and transplantation techniques could bank the genetic tissues of ‘special interest flocks’, whose genetics could be either old or lost. These tissues may be stored for long periods and used to re-generate living birds and flocks when desired.


$180,735 ($28,235 CPRC, $18,235 EFC, $20,000 PIC, $132,500 AAFC)


Liu, J., K. M. Cheng., P. H. Purdy and F. G. Silversides. 2012. A simple vitrification method for cryobanking avian testicular tissue. Poultry Science, 91: 3209-3213. Liu, J., K. M. Cheng., and F. G. Silversides. 2012. Novel needle-in-straw vitrification can effectively preserve the morphology, viability, and vascularization of ovarian tissue in Japanese quail (Coturnix japonica). Animal Reproduction Science, 134: 197-202. Liu, J., K. M. Cheng, and F. G. Silversides. 2013. Fundamental principles of cryobiology and application to ex situ conservation of avian species. Avian Biology Research, 6: 187-197(review). Liu, J., K. M. Cheng, and F. G. Silversides. 2013. Production of live offspring from testicular tissue cryopreserved by vitrification procedures in Japanese quail (Coturnix japonica). Biology of Reproduction, 88: 1–6. Liu, J., K. M. Cheng, and F. G. Silversides. 2013. A model for cryobanking female germplasm in Japanese quail (Coturnix japonica). Poultry Science, 92: 2772-277. Liu, J., K. M. Cheng, and F. G. Silversides. 2013. Recovery of fertility from adult ovarian tissue transplanted into week-old Japanese quail chicks. Submitted to Reproduction, Fertility and Development, August 10, 2013. Liu, J., M. C. Robertson, K. M. Cheng, and F. G. Silversides. 2013. Chimeric plumage coloration produced by ovarian transplantation in chickens. Poultry Science, 92:1073-1076.

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