The Key Laboratory was authorized to be established in Zhejiang University in August, 2000 by the Ministry of Education of P.R.China. It is distinguished for its studies in the fields of conservation genetics, reproductive biology and molecular ecology of endangered wild animals.
Faced with the growing challenge in recent years for salvaging diminishing endangered wild animals, it is very important to search for methods that can distinguish unambiguous 'units' for conservation purposes. The Key Laboratory utilizes molecular biological means, for instance DNA fingerprinting, PCR, microsatellite technique, AFLP, sequencing for mitochondrial DNA and nuclear DNA, and so on, to confirm individual identity, sexes, species identity, species distribution, population structure and genetic structure of wild animals. Based on these results, the management unit (MU) and evolutionarily significant unit (ESU) are designed to develop effective in situ conservation strategies. On the other hand, by combining the analyses of molecular ecology with environmental changes, exploring the molecular mechanism of species endangerment is a special research of the lab.
Although in situ conservation can deal effectively with short-term crises and with maintaining long-term potential for continuing evolution, it has been widely realized that genetic resources outside of natural environments (ex situ conservation) can increase the efficacy of conservation efforts many fold. So, the laboratory carries out artificial breeding including artificial insemination (AI), embryo transfer (ET) and in vitro fertilization (IVF), and constructs genome resource banks (GRB). A genome resource bank is the systematic collection, storage and use of biomaterials. For animals, these include germ plasm (spermatozoa, oocytes) banks, embryo repositories, cultured cell lines, blood products, tissue repositories, genomic DNA library, cDNA library and DNA samples. At the same time, the laboratory applies DNA techniques to identify kin structure of unknown captive endangered animals in order to provide reliable pedigrees for the management of breeding populations.
The meat, antlers, skin and other parts of wild animals are always highly prized so many wild animals are over-killed and become endangered. If these valuable genes are transferred to livestock and the transgenic livestock can produce the desirable products, the genetic measures will relieve the dilemma to a certain extent. As a result, in order to save these wild animals in the term of genes, some researchers of this laboratory are engaging in cloning and determining the function of genes related to disease, reproductive capability, fur and others. While the genome resource banks, especially genomic DNA library and cDNA library provided material guarantee for implementing genetic conservation strategies.