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Scientists Figure Out Way to Quickly and Safely Thaw Cryopreserved Tissue -- How Does It Work?

Mar 23, 2017 12:39 PM EDT
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Scientists Figure Out Way To Quickly AND Safely Thaw Cryopreserved Tissue - How Does This Work
Cryopreservation has been a hot topic in the field of medicine lately as it allows tissues to be preserved at low temperatures for long periods of time.
(Photo : Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Cryopreservation has been a hot topic in the field of medicine lately as it allows tissues to be preserved at low temperatures for long periods of time. However, an integral part of the process is to ensure they are brought "back" into a warm environment without damage, and it's been a problem scientists are having for decades.

Researchers have just created a new technique that can thaw cryopreserved tissues from human and pig samples without being damaged.

One of the prevailing techniques in the field is called vitrificaton, which involves super-cooling samples to a "glassy" state at around -160 degrees Celsius. This is in fact being used by companies like Alcor. Vitrification allows organs to be stored for years, which means doctors can make a "bank" of available organs.

However, like in present cryopreservation issues, the cooling part is something that is achievable. According to Science Alert, the thawing process is tricky as ice crystals can form and damage the tissue -- even crack it if the wrong move is made.

Now, a team from the University of Minnesota group led by John Bischof announced a development in the cryogenics front. According to Science Magazine, the team's new technique allows them to rapidy "rewarm" treated human and pig tissue samples without damaging them.

Bischof said this is the first instance where a method of thawing frozen tissue has not damaged said tissue. They said instead of using convection, they used nanoparticles to heat tissues at the same rate all at once. This means ice crystals will not be able to form.

To do this, they used silica-coated iron oxide nanoparticles into a solution. They then generated uniform heat via an external magnetic field.

This points towards very good news when it comes to the transplant department, as 22 people die in the U.S. each day while waiting for an organ transplant. In fact, according to the American Transplant Foundation, one of the biggest problems about organ transplant aren't shortages, it's that they can't stay long enough while frozen that they are irreparably damaged in the process.

This means even if there are a lot of organs being donated for transplant, there's the problem of matching them with someone who needs them and getting them to that person fast enough.

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