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FIVM Seminar Series: Non-Traditional Animal Models for Advancing Reproductive Health Studies in Humans

Dr. Pierre Comizzoli will discuss the enormous potential in applying human-related fertility preservation strategies to wild animals

Dr. Pierre Comizzoli

Assisted reproductive technologies developed for addressing human infertility and enhancing livestock production have shown promise for wildlife species.  However, species-specific physiological variations and a lack of fundamental knowledge have limited how these tools can be used to help rapidly re-build sustainable populations of endangered species.

On Friday, February 26, Dr. Pierre Comizzoli will discuss the enormous potential in applying human-related fertility preservation strategies to wild animals, especially approaches that could help managing or ‘rescuing’ the genomes of genetically valuable individuals. 

A priority in wildlife ex situ management is sustaining existing genetic diversity to preserve heterozygosity to avoid inbreeding depression and to ensure species integrity and the persistence of genomic adaptability to environmental changes.  Dr. Comizzoli’s discussion will look at specific components of the rapidly emerging field of fertility preservation in men and women that are highly compatible with preserving valuable genomes of individuals or populations of threatened wildlife. 

In addition, Dr. Comizzoli will explain how lessons learned over the last decades in wildlife reproductive biology (either from wild or captive populations) are highly relevant to the advancement of human health and fertility.  And how the substantial amount of scholarly knowledge generated by multispecies and comparative approaches is critical to better understand and mitigate complex issues affecting human beings.  He believes comparative approaches in fertility preservation could be of great benefit to the intensive and practical management of gene diversity in endangered species, and could lead to translational tools for human reproductive medicine.

Biography

Dr. Comizzoli began his career as a veterinarian in French Guyana and Africa working on wildlife and tropical veterinary medicine as well as on the reproductive biology in various animal species.  He obtained a Masters and a Ph.D. in reproductive biotechnologies of bovine and deer species.  Dr. Comizzoli worked on the implementation of assisted reproductive techniques and genome resource banking for the conservation of ungulate species at the National Museum of Natural History of Paris.  In 2002, he joined the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Washington DC to develop new projects on gamete and gonadal tissue cryo-banking for rare and endangered species. 

In addition to basic research activities mainly supported by the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Comizzoli is the Project Leader of the Pan-Smithsonian Cryo-Initiative which aims at improving the management and use of biomaterial and environmental repositories within the Institution.  He is also in charge of conservation projects on wild carnivores and ungulates in Northern Africa (Chair of the Conservation and Scientific Committee of the Sahara Conservation Fund) as well as in South-East Asia (Member of the IUCN/SSC Saola Working Group).