Cryopreservation of specialized chicken lines using cultured primordial germ cells
Biosecurity and sustainability in poultry production requires reliable germplasm conservation. Germplasm conservation in poultry is more challenging in comparison to other livestock species. Embryo cryopreservation is not feasible for egg-laying animals, and chicken semen conservation has variable success for different chicken breeds. A potential solution is the cryopreservation of the committed diploid stem cell precursors to the gametes, the primordial germ cells (PGCs). Primordial germ cells are the lineage-restricted cells found at early embryonic stages in birds and form the sperm and eggs. We demonstrate here, using flocks of partially inbred, lower-fertility, major histocompatibility complex- (MHC-) restricted lines of chicken, that we can easily derive and cryopreserve a sufficient number of independent lines of male and female PGCs that would be sufficient to reconstitute a poultry breed. We demonstrate that germ-line transmission can be attained from these PGCs using a commercial layer line of chickens as a surrogate host. This research is a major step in developing and demonstrating that cryopreserved PGCs could be used for the biobanking of specialized flocks of birds used in research settings. The prospective application of this technology to poultry production will further increase sustainability to meet current and future production needs.