Stem Cells: Giant Panda Research Plan To Generate Global Action

First Posted: Oct 05, 2015 04:36 PM EDT

A giant panda study used stem cell research to determine some of the deadly diseases that pandas are susceptible to according to Iain Valentine, Director of Giant Pandas for the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, in a news release.

The RZSS European giant panda zoos are distinct and have three agreements with China: A ten year loan of Yang Guang, a ten year loan of Tian Tian (also known as Sweetie and Sunshine) and a research agreement, according to Valentine.

The RZSS is currently involved in 40 giant panda projects around the globe, some of which are funded by RZSS itself. Some of the other projects received external funding and others are through partnership with other organizations.

This research work was initiated from the Giant Panda Research Symposium, held in Edinburgh in 2013, when RZSS gathered over 60 experts from around the world to help develop a five-year research plan for giant pandas, with the aim of generating global action on how giant pandas are cared for in zoos around the world and in Chinese reserves.

A scientific paper was published regarding a stem cell production project with a number of other prestigious organizations. The stem cells were produced from swabs that are essential to enabling conservationists to seek another method of bio-banking genetic resources other than sperm or eggs.

"Cell lines, created from easily collectable samples like cheek swabs, help with research into some of the deadly diseases that pandas are susceptible to such as distemper, parvovirus and retrovirus. Cell lines allow us to test potential vaccines without having to involve the animals themselves, and they can also be used for tissue repair," said Valentine, via the release.

However, the study has nothing to do with cloning, though some key figures involved in cloning Dolly the sheep are sharing their expertise as part of the project.

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