Cryopreservation and storage (cryobanking), and shipment of biomaterials are one of the key components of any cell-based application including stem cell and regenerative medicine. However, human embryonic stem cells are proven to be very sensitive to stresses associated with CP. The recovery of fully functional (pluripotent) human stem cells is extremely low in comparison to other types of cells and ESC species, it rarely exceeds 25% and very often is as low as 5-10%.
The action of cold temperature is a severe stress but this is not only related to the ‘standard’ CP procedures. It includes a variety of physical, chemical and thermodynamical factors, and each of them can reparably damage the precious and slow growing hESCs. It makes an art of cryopreservation - cryobiology which involves complex and multidisciplinary areas and from which the problem can only be successfully solved if such a multidisciplinary approach is used.
We indeed will use such an approach:
1. We will measure crucial and to this day unknown cryobiophysical characteristics of hESCs, which will allow us to systematically search for better protocols for cooling, warming and the addition and dilution of cryoprotective agents (CPAs), in other words, we will elucidate how the cells and their membranes interact with the most commonly used antifreezes.
2. In parallel, we will study the fundamental molecular cryobiology of hESCs. By using specific and precise tools of molecular biology and genetics, we will identify why this type of cell is especially vulnerable to CP, what type of damage is introduced to the cells at different stages of CP, and what should be done to minimize the damaging effects. One of the causes of damage is associated with a procedure of detachment (taking out) of hESCs from the surface they normally grow and separating the cells into smaller clusters prior to freezing, and centrifugation. We think that these causes of damage make cells more susceptible to CP per se, and we will develop a method of CP that would avoid these deleterious effects. We shall simply keep the cells in their “natural environment” prior to freezing - that is, adherent to their growth surface.
3. We will develop a special system that “make cells happy” even after such a severe “journey to the Antarctica’s pole of cold”.
We will assemble an interdisciplinary team of highly skilled cryobiologists, biophysicists, molecular biologists, geneticists, and engineers to execute this project. As a result, a novel, revolutionary technology of CP of hESCs will be developed that will substantially improve the quality and yield of hESCs after cryopreservation.
Statement of Benefit to California:
Cryopreservation and storage (cryobanking), and shipment of biomaterials are one of the key components of any cell-based application including stem cell and regenerative medicine. However, human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) are proven to be very sensitive to stresses associated with CP. The recovery of fully functional (pluripotent) stem cells is extremely low in comparison to other types of cells and ESC species; it rarely exceeds 25% and very often is as low as 5-10%.
California has positioned itself through the leadership of CIRM as a leader in stem cell biology and regenerative medicine, so it is expected that a dramatic increase in the use of hESCs and their derivatives will be beneficial. Therefore, efficient cryobanking of hESCs will benefit all people of California, and especially those who will need SC transplantation in the future in addition to any other medical discoveries gleaned from SC studies. On the other hand, the scientific community of California would benefit from such development because it would improve the quality of the scientific materials, facilitate material exchange between different centers, etc.