Slow-frozen people? Latest research supports possibility of cryopreservation

June 20, 2006

The latest research on water - still one of the least understood of all liquids despite a century of intensive study – seems to support the possibility that cells, tissues and even the entire human body could be cryopreserved without formation of damaging ice crystals, according to University of Helsinki researcher Anatoli Bogdan, Ph.D.

He conducted the study, scheduled for the July 6 issue of the ACS Journal of Physical Chemistry B, one of 34 peer-review journals published by the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society.

In medicine, cryopreservation involves preserving organs and tissues for transplantation or other uses. Only certain kinds of cells and tissues, including sperm and embryos, currently can be frozen and successfully rewarmed. A major problem hindering wider use of cryopreservation is formation of ice crystals, which damage cell structures.

Cryopreservation may be most familiar, however, as the controversial idea that humans, stricken with incurable diseases, might be frozen and then revived years or decades later when cures are available.

Bogdan's experiments involved a form of water termed "glassy water," or low-density amorphous ice (LDA), which is produced by slowly supercooling diluted aqueous droplets. LDA melts into highly viscous water (HVW). Bogdan reports that HVW is not a new form of water, as some scientists believed.

"That HVW is not a new form of water (i.e., normal and glassy water are thermodynamically connected) may have some interesting practical implications in cryobiology, medicine, and cryonics." Bogdan said.

"It may seem fantastic, but the fact that in aqueous solution, [the] water component can be slowly supercooled to the glassy state and warmed back without the crystallization implies that, in principle, if the suitable cryoprotectant is created, cells in plants and living matter could withstand a large supercooling and survive," Bogdan explained. In present cryopreservation, the cells being preserved are often damaged due to freezing of water either on cooling or subsequent warming to room temperature.

"Damage of the cells occurs due to the extra-cellular and intra-cellular ice formation which leads to dehydration and separation into the ice and concentrated unfrozen solution. If we could, by slow cooling/warming, supercool and then warm the cells without the crystallization of water then the cells would be undamaged."

Source: American Chemical Society

Explore further: What we know, don't know and suspect about what causes motor neuron disease

Related Stories

Patching up a broken heart

June 19, 2017

It is almost impossible for an injured heart to fully mend itself. Within minutes of being deprived of oxygen – as happens during a heart attack when arteries to the heart are blocked – the heart's muscle cells start ...

How to build an artificial nano-factory to power our futures

June 19, 2017

Many bacteria contain little factories for different purposes. They can make sugars from carbon dioxide to fuel life, or digest certain compounds that would be toxic for the cell, if the digestion took place outside of these ...

How indigo pigment can be used in electronics

June 15, 2017

Silicon still represents the most important material for the production of semiconductor elements such as transistors, diodes or solar cells. For a number of years, however, an interesting alternative has been available: ...

Scientists solve a mystery in cellular 'droplet' organelles

June 13, 2017

Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have solved a cellular mystery that may have important implications for fundamental biology and diseases like ALS. Their new research suggests that RNA may be the secret ...

Recommended for you

Mars rover Opportunity on walkabout near rim

June 23, 2017

NASA's senior Mars rover, Opportunity, is examining rocks at the edge of Endeavour Crater for signs that they may have been either transported by a flood or eroded in place by wind.

Making ferromagnets stronger by adding non-magnetic elements

June 23, 2017

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory discovered that they could functionalize magnetic materials through a thoroughly unlikely method, by adding amounts of the virtually non-magnetic element scandium ...

Google to stop scanning Gmail for ad targeting

June 23, 2017

Google said Friday it would stop scanning the contents of Gmail users' inboxes for ad targeting, moving to end a practice that has fueled privacy concerns since the free email service was launched.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.