TEN YEARS...Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine and SVF collaboration!
A decade has passed since we first officially began our collaboration with Tufts Veterinary School. It was the right choice and together we have accomplished more than we thought possible.
In 1999, George Saperstein, DVM, our scientific advisor from Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, made the suggestion that we consider cryo-preservation. Dr. Saperstein, along with several colleagues conveyed a compelling message:
Want to make a real difference and do something no one else is doing? Build a cryo-repository. Conservation on the hoof is important, but once you go, you never know who will carry on your efforts. Collecting semen and embryos, and freezing in liquid nitrogen, is a way to ensure these breeds will be available in two hundred years.
That was it! Just a few slides of embryos along with pictures of liquid nitrogen vapor, and Mrs. Hamilton, our founder, had made her decision.
Over the next couple of years, with construction underway, Tufts was gracious enough to consult on an informal basis. During that time, a great deal of thought went into the logistics of maintaining multiple flocks and herds, how animal and lab buildings would be configured, as well the biosecurity requirements for such an important undertaking.
In 2002, with construction complete, Tufts officially came on board. They sat in on numerous employment interviews, trained our staff on the technicalities of semen collection (don't ask), created biosecurity and animal testing standards for incoming breeds, and handled our herd health.
Tufts outlined the number of embryos and straws of semen to be collected from each of the target breeds, as well as the methods we would adopt for the collection and freezing process. By 2002, we had started the collection of germplasm (semen and embryos).
Within three years from the start of the project, the vets had performed our first small ruminant embryo transfer, thawing Tennessee Myotonic goat embryos—which had been stored in our freezers—and transferring them to a common breed of goat. Five months later, a Tennessee Myotonic kid, Chip, was born, proving that our cryopreserved library of frozen embryos was viable.
Since that first embryo transfer, our team has successfully completed ten additional transfers, presented abstracts and posters from Denmark to New Mexico, published our first manuscript for the Journal of Theriogenology and collected over 60,000 samples of genetic material from 700 head of livestock.
As with all good partnerships, Tufts has shared equally in reaping the benefits of creating this livestock seed bank. Cummings is the only veterinary college in New England, and every one of their graduate veterinarians has learned first-hand about the importance of our nation’s livestock genetic diversity and how it can be conserved. It's safe to say the project is a success, and Tufts has been an ideal partner.