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Organ storage a step closer with cryopreservation discovery

Organ storage one step closer with cryopreservation discovery

Illustration of the team’s cryoprotectant that helps protect a cell from damage during cryopreservation, primarily by dehydration and freezing by preventing the formation of ice crystals that can damage cells. Image: Saffron Bryant

Australian scientists have taken the first step towards better storage of human cells, which could lead to safe storage of organs such as hearts and lungs.

The team’s discovery of new cryoprotective agents opens the door to the development of many more agents that could one day help eliminate the need for organ transplant waiting lists. Their results are published in the Journal of Materials Chemistry B

Cryopreservation is a process in which biological samples are cooled to very low temperatures so that they can be stored for a long time. Storing cells through cryopreservation has brought great benefits to the world, including increasing blood bank supplies and aiding reproduction, but it is currently impossible to store organs and simple tissues.

The lead researcher, Dr. Saffron Bryant of RMIT University, said that in the United States, about 60% of all donated hearts and lungs were thrown away.

While figures vary in other countries, storage and transportation times remain a global issue.

“We have massive organ shortages and we only have hours to get an organ from a donor to a recipient,” Bryant said.

About 1,850 people are on the waiting list for an organ transplant in Australia, while more than 100,000 Americans are waiting for a transplant.

Bryant said transplant waiting lists could become a problem of the past as the RMIT team’s discovery of new cryoprotective agents could lead to the development of potentially thousands more that could help keep donated organs viable for years to come. of hours.

“For the past 50 years, cryopreservation practices have largely been based on the same two cryoprotective agents, but they don’t work for organs and many cell types,” she said.

Cryoprotectants are like the antifreeze you put in your car to keep the engine from freezing because they allow for the storage of cells at very low temperatures, Bryant said.

“These agents help protect against damage during cryopreservation, mainly through dehydration and freezing by preventing the formation of ice crystals that can damage cells,” she said.

Organ storage one step closer with cryopreservation discovery

Micrograph of neural cells after freezing with the team’s new cryoprotectant. The cells are stained with fluorescent dyes. Photo: Saffron Bryant

“Ice crystals cause damage in cells. Cryoprotectants stop icing, which instead leads to a glass-like structure that can solidify but not do the same kind of damage as ice crystals.”

The research team found that a cryoprotectant containing two agents, proline and glycerol, was effective on all four cell types tested, including skin and brain cells, which were incubated with the cryoprotectant at 37 degrees Celsius before being frozen.

“This cryoprotectant was more effective and less toxic than the individual components,” Bryant said.

“This is one of the first times that this class of solvents has been systematically tested for cryopreservation of mammalian cells.”

“This study could lead to the development of potentially thousands of new cryoprotective agents that can be tailored to specific cell types.”

Bryant said incubating these cells with the cryoprotectant at 37 degrees Celsius for several hours prior to freezing and keeping them viable is a critical step toward organ and tissue storage.

“It means we can expose organs to the cryoprotectants long enough for them to penetrate the deepest layers of the organ without causing damage,” she said.

“We still have a long way to go with our research because we’ve only looked at single cells and it’s a much more complicated process for organs.”

“But if we can develop this approach to organ storage, we can eliminate organ shortages — there would be no waiting lists at all.”

As a next step, the RMIT team will explore ways to cryopreserve new cell types, including some that cannot be frozen and kept viable using current methods.

“We are also working with Lifeblood to investigate cryopreservation of blood products such as platelets, which are vital for treating patients who have suffered significant blood loss,” Bryant said.

“With current technology, platelets can only be stored for up to a week, but with successful cryopreservation, they can be stored for years.”


New insights freeze the mechanisms to safely store biological materials


More information:
Saffron J. Bryant et al, Deep eutectic solvents as cryoprotective agents for mammalian cells, Journal of Materials Chemistry B (2022). DOI: 10.1039/D2TB00573E

Provided by RMIT University


Quote: Organ storage one step closer with cryopreservation discovery (2022, June 22) retrieved June 22, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-06-storage-closer-cryopreservation-discovery.html

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