Cryo-storing research lines of chicken to eliminate breeding and save genetic resources

Our ability to cryopreserve avian species is extremely limited leading to research flocks of chicken to be raised indefinitely as permanent breeding flocks. A validated protocol for the cryopreservation for research chicken will drastically reduce or eliminate the numbers of chicken kept in research institutes, greatly reducing maintenance costs and provide increased biosecurity against pathogen outbreaks, such as avian influenza, which could result in the destruction of these genetic resources and in the end endanger sustainable food production.

The overall goal of this project is to demonstrate the reestablishment of a research chicken flock from frozen material; something to date that has not been demonstrated for a poultry species. In this project, we make use our newly developed sterile surrogate host chicken which permits 100% transmission of donor genetic material. We have also recently developed a protocol to directly freeze embryonic germ cell material eliminating the need to culture reproductive tissue before cryopreservation. We will first optimise cryopreservation procedures for three research chicken lines currently maintained at the Roslin Institute. We will next directly measure the genotype transmission rates from single sterile surrogate host chicken carrying multiple donor genotypes. This result will define our efficiencies and bird numbers needed for re-establishing a chicken flock. Finally, we will demonstrate the reconstitution of a research line of chickens followed by monitoring the fertility and health of the re-established flock. With this information, we will be able to confidently biobank and reconstitute research poultry breeds.

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Project grant



Principal investigator

Dr Michael McGrew


University of Edinburgh


Dr Kellie Watson
Dr Helen Brown
Mrs Amanda Novak

Grant reference number


Award date:

Dec 2020 - Nov 2023

Grant amount