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Cryobiology. 2005 Jun;50(3):231-8. Epub 2005 Apr 13.

The origin, ultrastructure, and microbiology of the sediment accumulating in liquid nitrogen storage vessels.

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Asymptote Limited, St. John's Innovation Centre, Cowley Road, Cambridge, CB4 0WS, UK.


During long-term cryopreservation, ice sediment accumulates in storage Dewars and poses a risk of microbial contamination to stored samples. Ice accumulates in liquid nitrogen via two general processes: (1) ice forming in the atmosphere above an open Dewar falls into the vessel; and (2) ice forming on cold surfaces of the Dewar or inventory system enters the liquid nitrogen. These ice crystals aggregate and entrap other materials, such as bacteria, fungal spores, and general laboratory debris present within the liquid nitrogen. Measured changes in the ultrastructure of ice aggregates following long-term storage are consistent with transient warming events to temperatures of -100 degrees C. Bacteria were identified in all samples and filamentous fungi in 9 out of 10 samples. These micro-organisms are commonly found in the environment and would not be expected to have been derived from IVF samples. Some of the bacteria identified are associated with nosocomial infections in humans. The implications that the association of microbial contamination with ice crystals has on cryopreservation procedures are discussed.

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