Zf-implant(r), a novel tool for eel reproduction

Zf-implants(r), which is based on patented platform technology, will be developed as a tool to enhance eel reproduction. The implants incur low stress and result in natural hormone levels. The dutch-danish consortium aims to obtain an optimal protocol for production of viable eggs and larvae.

Fish aquaculture is considered to be a growth market, because fisheries have reached their maximum capacity and this is even falling due to overfishing. The current eel aquaculture depends exclusively on glass eel fisheries. A sustainable eel aquaculture requires production of fry at commercial levels, but attempts to breed eels in captivity have failed due to a complex reproduction pattern. ZF-Implant(R), which is based on patented platform technology, may help overcoming this problem because it offers the possibility of stimulating maturation with low stress and with a slow release system that results in natural hormone levels. In most animals, the reproduction is regulated by pituitary hormones. The pituitary (a small gland in the brain) is controlled by 2 different mechanisms: 1) hormonal via hypothalamus peptide GnRH (Gonadoprophin-Releasing Hormone) and 2) neuronal via dopaminergic innervation. The dopaminergic innervation that inhibits maturation is difficult to circumvent in eels and the presently available hormone preparations using crude pituitary extracts (salmon or carp pituitary extract) are insufficient. Furthermore these preparations are potentially dangerous as they may contain prions and viruses, and will likely be banned soon by the EU. A solution may be cell implant technology (patented worldwide), where hormone producing cells take over the pituitary function. The implants consist of embryonic fish cells with activated genes for the production of reproduction hormones. This technology supplemented by formulated hormone extracts for slow release will be developed and tested in controlled experiments on captive eels. Resolution of the eel maturation problems will represent a breakthrough in artificial eel reproduction. The consortium includes two commercial companies, ZF-SCREENS (NL) and BIONEER (DK) and two knowledge institutes, UNIVERSITY OF LEIDEN, LU (NL), and the National Institute of Aquatic Resources, TECHNICAL UNIVERSITY OF DENMARK, DTU AQUA (DK). The two latter are leaders in eel reproduction research. Guido van den Thillart (LU) was coordinator of the EU project EELREP 2001-2005, which had a high impact on the state of knowledge about European eel reproduction. Novel technology and patents applied by ZF-SCREENS originate from innovative research at the UNIVERSITY OF LEIDEN. DTU AQUA has established a large scale research facility directed at artificial production of European eel and leads the technology development within the production of viable eggs and larvae of European eel and has set a number of records regarding hatching success and larval survival within recent years. BIONEER has expertise in developing and commercialising any foreground technology addressing biotechnology, biomedical and biomedico markets at an international level. Within the framework of the present project, the biotechnology provided by ZF-SCREENS is essential in developing and producing cell implants, and that of BIONEER for slow release hormone formulations. The knowledge-base of LU is furthermore essential in the development of different maturation assays used to test the efficacy of the treatments. DTU AQUA is essential for the reproduction protocols, trials and evaluation of the efficacy of the products. This collaboration will provide a strong basis for a new biotechnological development. Project approach 1. ZF-SCREENS: a. Standardise cell production: develop production schedule for up-scaled production; b. Development of new media for long shelf life of harvested cells; c. Development of injection system for implants; d. Carry out field tests with partners; e. Evaluate reproduction impact and commercial value of ZF-Implant(R). 2. LU-BIOLOGY: a. Bio-assays for gonadotropins; b. Cell lines with high hormone production levels; c. Multiplex q-RT-PCR (q- Reverse Transcriptase - Polymerase Chain Reaction) assays for different indicator genes; d. ZF-implant(R) trials (1-12 weeks) on male eels 3. DTU: a. Long term ZF-implant(R) trials on female farmed eels; b. Anatomical and histological analysis of gonads; c. Responsible for reproduction trials. d. Evaluation of reproduction success. 4. BIONEER: a. Formulate salmon extract hormones for slow release (feasibility analysis). b. Develop a process for manufacturing recombinant eel maturation hormones (literature survey). Furthermore, BIONEER will analyse methods for packaging live cells (survey and optional feasibility analysis).
Project ID: 
4 434
Start date: 
Project Duration: 
Project costs: 
1 000 000.00€
Technological Area: 
Aquaculture technology
Market Area: 
Fishing, Sea Food and Farming

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