Cryopreservation and rederivation: Two steps forward, no setback

Effective colony management ensures reproducible research outcomes and adherence to the principles of the 3Rs. Cryopreservation and rederivation services are highly effective tools for meeting these standards but are not yet broadly used. Recent research has revealed that many laboratory professionals are unaware of the benefits of cryopreservation and rederivation for effective colony management, which may explain the variable uptake of these services across facilities. 

Now that research is resuming following the difficulties posed by COVID-19, researchers are keenly aware of the need to consider proactive disaster-mitigation strategies within their colony management plans. With this additional focus in mind, cryopreservation and rederivation services are uniquely placed to bolster efficiency, embed 3R principles, and ensure research continuity in the face of unseen circumstances. 

What are cryopreservation and rederivation, and how can they benefit research?


Cryopreservation preserves the normal function of cells via a reduction in temperature so that biochemical reactions cannot take place. The process can be used to preserve sperm and embryos, providing a snapshot of mouse or rat genetic models that can be used to revitalize a colony with optimal health status. Cryopreservation can prevent a catastrophic loss of unique lines if situations beyond the control of an animal facility were to arise (e.g., natural disasters, including global pandemics). Cryopreservation offers the following additional benefits:

+ Protection of strains and stock against adventitious disease, pathogen and genetic combination of lines, human error, and loss of breeding performance.

+ Easier shipping and distribution. Compared to live animals, cryopreserved samples can be more easily - and often more economically - distributed, thereby facilitating the exchange of lines between collaborators and partners.

+ Ability for colonies to be refreshed, rather than maintained over time. This lessens the effects of genetic drift caused by spontaneous mutations or genetic bottleneck effects, etc., and therefore ensures the longevity of these valuable resources for the scientific community.

+ Provision of an ethical solution for lines that are not actively being used. By reducing the number of animals being used, this also allows facilities to conserve costly resources needed to maintain colonies.


The health status of experimental animals has enormous impact on animal welfare, and critically affects the validity and reproducibility of research data. Rederivation - involving isolation of a pre-implantation stage embryo for transfer to a clean recipient female - is used to clean lines prior to being introduced into barrier facilities. This allows animal facilities to maintain the health status of their colonies, thereby conferring proven benefits for animal welfare and research outcomes.

In addition, rederivation offers the following benefits for research:

+ The procedure improves health status to FELASA recommendations or other standards, and converts offspring to 'specific pathogen free' or 'specific and opportunistic pathogen free' status.

+ It can be used to replace an animal population after an infection outbreak within a colony, thereby ensuring research continuity.

+ Allows animals to be shared more easily with the scientific community, even when sources are new or unknown.

+ Can be used to replace an animal population after a genetic contamination within a colony, either due to genetic drift or misbreeding, thereby ensuring research continuity.

Are there any disadvantages?

In summary, there are no true disadvantages to the use of cryopreservation as part of a colony management strategy. Even upfront and recovery costs can lead to significant savings in the long term. In addition, rederivation provides a safety net when health or genetic status is a concern. 

For both procedures to be effective, researchers will need to undertake upfront planning to develop an effective cryopreservation and/or rederivation strategy for their research needs. For example, choosing between sperm or embryo cryopreservation will depend on factors such as the complexity of the genetic model, and rederivation via embryo transfer or aseptic hysterectomy will depend on whether colonies meet specific requirements. 

To support researchers while making these choices, Envigo's project managers are available to help you develop a customized program suited to a family's needs and requirements. In addition, Envigo's recent white papers provide a full discussion of the factors to consider when implementing cryopreservation and/or rederivation strategies. For further details on Envigo's cryopreservation services and rederivation services, please visit our contract breeding pages. 

Contact us today to learn how we can help your team.