Lots of human tissue is frozen, from blood to embryos.
But the size and complexity is constrained by ice crystals that form when frozen. Crystals can damage and even destroy a cell.
Researchers use what’s called a cryoprotectant, like the stuff you put in a car to stop the radiator water from freezing to reduce that damage. But cryoprotectants are toxic.
Now, Adam Higgins with Oregon State University says they’ve developed a new way of using cryoprotectants, “The way to reduce toxicity is to intentionally cause the cells to swell, but not swell too much," he said.
"And that swollen cell can take up more cryoprotectant at a lower concentration than an unswollen cell can.”
Higgins has been able to reduce damage in two dimensional tissue, lying on a petri dish. But now he has to show the process can work on larger, three dimensional tissue samples.
The findings were announced in the Public Library of Science.