Image showing the growth of ice crystals on a microscopic scale.
It is said that the greatest innovations are inspired by nature. This is entirely the opinion of Robert Ben, professor of chemistry at the University of Ottawa. He and his colleague Professor Jason Acker of the University of Alberta are in the process of bringing to market a new and improved process for freezing stem cells and tissue samples. Professor Ben explains that the idea crystallized in his mind after reading that teleost fish can survive below freezing temperatures thanks to antifreeze proteins that prevent the formation of ice crystals.
The company led by the two researchers, PanTHERA CryoSolutions, produces recrystallization inhibitors, that is, small organic molecules that prevent the formation of ice. This method improves the preservation of biological material used in the fields of cell therapy and regenerative medicine.
The company recently benefited from a $ 4 million investment from BioLife Solutions Inc. and Casdin Capital to support the development of this technology over the next 24 months, in return for exclusive international marketing and distribution rights for applications for cellular and genetic therapies.
Weve been freezing cells and tissues for a long time to develop cell therapies to treat a variety of diseases, says Robert Ben, who specializes in synthetic organic and medicinal chemistry.
Since the 1950s, weve been using cryoprotectants like dimethyl sulfoxide or glycerol to try to prevent cell death during freezing and thawing. The problem with these cryoprotectants is that they dont always work. Out of 100,000 frozen cells, we may only be able to recover 25,000 living cells that can be used for research or clinical applications. In fact, up to 80% of damage is caused by the uncontrolled formation of ice crystals during freezing. Since current cryoprotectants do not solve this problem, our results, measured in terms of cell recovery and function, remain unsatisfactory.
Since this new technology prevents ice crystals from growing, it will keep cells, tissues and organs and possibly vaccines and other biological materials at a higher temperature, making them easier to store and ship. to remote areas.
Over the past 10 months, Robert Ben has also worked to develop a new line of recrystallization inhibitors that protect and stabilize proteins, nucleotides and viruses. He and his collaborators are at the validation stage; they hope to show that their technology allows the preservation of samples taken during tests for COVID-19 as well as RNA-based vaccines.
Researchers Jason Acker (left), Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Alberta / Canadian Blood Services, and Robert Ben, Faculty of Science, University of Ottawa. Photo credit: GlycoNet
Ice formation, or recrystallization, is an inevitable effect of freezing. Over time and temperature fluctuations, ice crystals become larger and larger, damaging the membranes of many cells and causing them to deteriorate or die.
This is exactly what is happening in your freezer, he continues. Think about ice cream after a few weeks of freezing (Im sure that reminds you of something). The taste and appearance is different from fresh ice cream, right? This is because the ice crystals modify the structure of the product, which affects its taste and all of its characteristics.
The scientist explains that the lower the temperature, the slower the recrystallization process. This is why some drugs, such as vaccines, must be kept at very low temperatures to prolong their shelf life. For example, Pfizers COVID-19 vaccine should be stored at -70 degrees Celsius to prevent ice crystals from getting too large and damaging the product.
Small crystals are not a problem. They are like grains of sand on a Caribbean beach. They are so small that they mold to your body; so you can spend the whole day lazing on the beach without feeling any discomfort. Now imagine that you are lying on cobbles or gravel. Its nowhere near as comfortable. Our cryopreservation process therefore prevents the crystals from getting too large.
With the rise of modern cell therapies and regenerative medicine techniques, it has become necessary to modernize the way we preserve the materials that make these medical advances possible.
Our molecules are unique, since they prevent cellular damage caused by ice, unlike conventional cryoprotectants. At the end of the day, we have access to more healthy and functioning cells. No other product offers these benefits.
The core technology was created from an academic research collaboration between the University of Ottawa and the University of Alberta, which received research funding from GlycoNet, one of the centers of National Excellence (NEC) of Canada, Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) of Canada, Canadian Blood Services, industrial research (IRAP) of the National Research Council of Canada and Mitacs.
The rest is here:
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