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Cryobiology. 2003 Apr;46(2):197-202.

Protective effect of intracellular ice during freezing?

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Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology, University of Alberta, 3rd Floor, Canadian Blood Services Building, 8249-114 Street, AB, T6G 2R8, Edmonton, Canada. jason.acker@ualberta.cca


Injury results during freezing when cells are exposed to increasing concentrations of solutes or by the formation of intracellular ice. Methods to protect cells from the damaging effects of freezing have focused on the addition of cryoprotective chemicals and the determination of optimal cooling rates. Based on other studies of innocuous intracellular ice formation, this study investigates the potential for this ice to protect cells from injury during subsequent slow cooling. V-79W Chinese hamster fibroblasts and Madin-Darby Canine Kidney (MDCK) cells were cultured as single attached cells or confluent monolayers. The incidence of intracellular ice formation (IIF) in the cultures at the start of cooling was pre-determined using one of two different extracellular ice nucleation temperatures (-5 or -10 degrees C). Samples were then cooled at 1 degrees C/min to the experimental temperature (-5 to -40 degrees C) where samples were warmed rapidly and cell survival assessed using membrane integrity and metabolic activity. For single attached cells, the lower ice nucleation temperature, corresponding to increased incidence of IIF, resulted in decreased post-thaw cell recovery. In contrast, confluent monolayers in which IIF has been shown to be innocuous, show higher survival after cooling to temperatures as low as -40 degrees C, supporting the concept that intracellular ice confers cryoprotection by preventing cell dehydration during subsequent slow cooling.

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