Protecting Cells from Freezing

Protecting Cells from Freezing

Author: Lisa-Marie Rauschendorfer

The only way to store human cells over a long period of time is cryopreservation, where cells are maintained at temperatures of –196 °C. The freezing process requires the usage of cryoprotectants, such as dimethyl sulfoxide or glycerol, which protect the cells from damages caused by dehydration or by the formation of intracellular ice during freezing. Unfortunately, these protectants are toxic to living cells and reduce cell-viability after thawing significantly.

Diana Averill-Bates, Université du Québec á Montréal, Canada, and colleagues reason that winter wheat has to contain substances that naturally protect plant cells against damage from freezing, since this wheat is tolerant to extreme temperatures faced in winter. Hence, they used its soluble protein extract to protect mammalian cells from damage during freezing. After freezing and defrosting again, cells show good viability and metabolic function. The team analyzed the extract by mass-spectrometry and identified a potential candidate for this protective effect, the enzyme enolase. Recombinant production of this enzyme and subsequent application in cryoprotection shows great potential as new and non-toxic agent for cell-protection during storage at –196 °C.


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