Cryopreservation has been used for decades to preserve tissues using liquid nitrogen in order to preserve them over a long period of time. Although this method allows scientists to bring back the tissues from very low temperature without causing damage, it has yet to be done on large tissue samples or organs. But researchers at the University of Minnesota say they are getting closer to a solution that could possibly eliminate organ transplant waiting lists.
According to the American Transplant Foundation, 22 people die every day while waiting for an organ transplant. The main issue is not that there is an organ shortage, but the lack of an efficient way to safely store the organs while finding a matching recipient. Since organs cannot be kept on ice for more than four hours with causing damage, it's estimated that 60% of heart and lung donations are thrown out each year.
Instead of using cryopreservation, which causes ice crystals to form during the thawing process, researchers at UMN are turning to vitrification. This technique involves super-cooling samples at around -160 °C (-256 °F) until they reach a "glassy" state. Vitrification would allow organs to be stored for years, but the problem is there is no successful way to thaw larger tissue samples or organs.
So far, researchers have been able to rapidly thaw cryogenically treated human and pig samples ranging between 1 and 50 mL in size, while avoiding damaging side effects. To make this possible, the team used silica-coated iron oxide nanoparticles and applied an eternal magnetic field to heat the tissue at the same rate to prevent ice crystals from forming.
Before we can start building up an arsenal of available organs for transplants, researchers say a lot of work still needs to be done. The team has yet to apply to technique to organs, and admit they would have to inject the nanoparticle solution into the organs to achieve the same uniform heating.
To ensure quality control during cryopreservation, it's critical to constantly monitor the temperature of items. MadgeTech offers data logging solutions that can withstand temperatures as low as -196 °C for handling liquid nitrogen- based applications. To view the complete collection of data loggers for cold chain monitoring in medical and pharmaceutical settings, click here.
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