Preserving structures in delicate cell types
This engaging paper by Day et al. explored innovative ways to cryopreserve Schwann cells (a type of glial cell crucial to the peripheral nervous system (PNS)) without damaging their structure – this was looked at in the context of using these cells to repair nerve damage in patients through transplant of these cells.
There have been relatively few studies looking at the cryopreservation of brain cells or tissues where cell integrity is maintained – typically when preserving neural tissues structure is preserved at the expense of cell viability. Schwann cells were encapsulated in alginate tubes, which formed long strings aligned with the cells during culture post encapsulation – strings were tethered to the bottom of a culture flask, with one end floating in the culture medium. A set of these were then stored under hypothermic conditions, while another set cryopreserved using a slow cooling method. Hypothermic storage was found to be optimal for 3 days storage, however cryopreservation is required for longer durations.
It was found that using this method, ice did not substantially damage the encapsulated cells, which demonstrates that the delicate nature of Schwann cells can be preserved. Looking ahead, scaling up from individual cells to brain tissue remains a large outstanding problem to be addressed. The work by Day et al. will help treatments such as nerve grafting, and may begin a move to more accurate brain cryopreservation which would have huge benefits in the research of diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. - Dr. Peter Kilbride
Day, Adam GE, et al. The Effect of Hypothermic and Cryogenic Preservation on Engineered Neural Tissue. Tissue Engineering Part C: Methods. 2017 Oct 1; 23(10): 575-582. DOI: 10.1089/ten.tec.2017.0244