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AIDS Res Hum Retroviruses. 2012 Nov;28(11):1509-12. doi: 10.1089/AID.2012.0062. Epub 2012 Sep 4.

Nonreproducibility of "snap-frozen" rectal biopsies for later use in ex vivo explant infectibility studies.

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  • 1Magee-Womens Research Institute, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA.


Sexual transmission accounts for the majority of new HIV infections worldwide with sexually exposed cervicovaginal and colorectal mucosae being primary sites of infection. Two recent Phase 1 rectal microbicide trials included, as an ancillary endpoint, suppression of ex vivo HIV infection of in vivo microbicide-exposed rectal mucosal tissue biopsies. Both trials demonstrated significant suppression of biopsy infectibility in drug-exposed versus placebo-exposed tissue. This potential early biomarker of efficacy has raised the feasibility of utilizing "snap-frozen" tissue samples, acquired at multiple trial sites to be shipped for central processing, providing a mechanism to correlate tissue drug concentrations with a functional index of HIV prevention. While previous reports have indicated acceptable comparability of fresh versus freeze-thawed cervicovaginal tissue samples, no similar evaluations with colorectal tissue biopsies have been done. In this study, rectal biopsies from healthy, HIV-seronegative participants were assessed for structural integrity (histology), viability (MTT assays), and tissue infectibility to compare results from fresh versus combinations of freeze/thaw protocols. Results indicated that while all protocols showed equivalent viability with fresh samples (MTT), histology documented poor preservation of tissue integrity following freezing. Infectibility results from freeze-thawed colorectal tissue were markedly lower (usually<25% of fresh samples) and varied greatly and unpredictably. Centralized colorectal tissue infectibility assays using biopsies from remote trial sites cannot currently be supported under these protocols.

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