X-Message-Number: 40
From: Kevin Q. Brown
Subject: BioArchive Project
Date: 21 Nov 1988

BioArchive Project - Saving Species Through Nanotechnology

Issue 4 of Foresight Update (The Foresight Institute, Box 61058, Palo Alto,
CA 94306) announced the new "BioArchive Project" for saving endangered plant
and animal species.  The proposal is to cryopreserve samples of their DNA and
then, as our biotechnology (and nanotechnology) matures, restore the plants
and animals (and possibly their ecosystems) from the DNA alone.
This project nicely complements other kinds of conservation efforts already
underway.  For example, the simplest technologically yet most expensive
method of saving species is to preserve their habitat.  (It is expensive
because many humans want to use those same habitats and it costs a lot of
money to keep them from doing that.)  A less expensive (more species saved
per dollar) but technologically more sophisticated method is to cryopreserve
germ cells and embryos that require only warming to produce viable plants and
animals.  (The Center for Reproduction of Endangered Species at the San Diego
Zoo uses this approach.)  The BioArchive Project will take that a step further
by inexpensively scooping up samples of cells in endangered ecosystems and
cryopreserving them until our technology advances sufficiently to cheaply
sort out the cells and generate viable plants and animals from the DNA.
Given the current rate of species extinction (due to loss of habitat) and
the small expense of sampling and cryopreserving cell samples, the BioArchive
Project is probably the best hope for saving many endangered species from
extinction.  The project is still in the idea stage and The Foresight Institute
is creating a database of volunteers.  If you are interested, write to the
address above.
                                       - Kevin Q. Brown

PS: Note how much easier it is to save a great number of different species
    than it is to preserve a single human personality.

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