Our cell biology team conducts experimental veterinary research using cell culture technology - an alternative to using live animals. This allows us to perform medical research in a controlled environment and under a wide variety of conditions.
The cell biology department at CVRL has a primary focus on the reproduction research of birds and mammals, including sexual organ cell culture, cell line establishment, germ cell culture, embryonic and adult stem cell culture.
One of our goals is to protect the Houbara bustard, a rare, shy bird that populates the desert habitats in North Africa and the Middle East. The Houbara population has drastically declined in the last 20 years and is now classified as vulnerable.
Captive breeding programmes have been tried with conventional methods to increase Houbara population numbers, but also new technological solutions are essential if we wish to see this rare bird survive in the long-term. We have established a germ cell mediated chimera technique in the department using intra and inter-species germline chimera to help combat the future disappearance of this bird.
In our research, gonadal tissue is dissected from Houbara bustard embryos and injected into White Leghorn chicken embryos, producing surviving male chimeric embryos. After sexual maturity, semen samples from these roosters are used to artificially inseminate female Houbara bustards. One male Houbara successfully hatched and genotyping confirmed that the male chick was a pure-line Houbara derived from a chimeric rooster.
Our study demonstrated that, for the first time, Houbara primordial germ cells can migrate, differentiate and eventually give rise to functional sperm in the chimeric chicken testis. This approach may provide a promising tool for propagation and conservation of endangered avian species that cannot be bred in captivity.
Chicken and Houbara primordial germ cell culture and stem cell culture are the starting steps to efficiently produce more Houbara through chicken reproduction system using the chimera technology.