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J Tissue Eng Regen Med. 2012 Apr;6(4):280-90. doi: 10.1002/term.431. Epub 2011 Jun 27.

Cell encapsulation and cryostorage in PVA-gelatin cryogels: incorporation of carboxylated ε-poly-L-lysine as cryoprotectant.

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Materials Processing Research Centre, Dublin City University, Glasnevin, Dublin, Ireland.


It is desirable to produce cryopreservable cell-laden tissue-engineering scaffolds whose final properties can be adjusted during the thawing process immediately prior to use. Polyvinyl alcohol (PVA)-based solutions provide platforms in which cryoprotected cell suspensions can be turned into a ready-to-use, cell-laden scaffold by a process of cryogelation. In this study, such a PVA system, with DMSO as the cryoprotectant, was successfully developed. Vascular smooth muscle cell (vSMC)-encapsulated cryogels were investigated under conditions of cyclic strain and in co-culture with vascular endothelial cells to mimic the environment these cells experience in vivo in a vascular tissue-engineering setting. In view of the cytotoxicity DMSO imposes with respect to the production procedure, carboxylated poly-L-lysine (COOH-PLL) was substituted as a non-cytotoxic cryoprotectant to allow longer, slower thawing periods to generate more stable cryogels. Encapsulated vSMC with DMSO as a cryoprotectant responded to 10% cyclic strain with increased alignment and proliferation. Cells were stored frozen for 1 month without loss of viability compared to immediate thawing. SMC-encapsulated cryogels also successfully supported functional endothelial cell co-culture. Substitution of COOH-PLL in place of DMSO resulted in a significant increase in cell viability in encapsulated cryogels for a range of thawing periods. We conclude that incorporation of COOH-PLL during cryogelation preserved cell functionality while retaining fundamental cryogel physical properties, thereby making it a promising platform for tissue-engineering scaffolds, particularly for vascular tissue engineering, or cell preservation within microgels.

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