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Curtin researcher to return living tissues from deep freeze

Posted: 28 July 2014

Professor Ricardo Mancera from the School of Biomedical Sciences recently received a $450,000 Linkage Grant from the Australian Research Council (ARC) to continue his research in the field of cryopreservation.

Cryopreservation is a technique that aims to freeze biological materials at very low temperatures and to then bring them “back to life” anywhere from one to 100 years from now.

The grant will help Professor Mancera and his colleagues to conduct basic science research that is vital to cryopreservation – namely the nature of freezing and dehydration and the damage it does to cell membranes as well as the metabolic changes that affect cryogenic survival.

“Our ultimate aim is to use our biochemical research findings to establish a set of protocols and processes for cryopreservation,” Professor Mancera said.

This multidisciplinary project will involve a unique combination of molecular modelling, biophysical and biochemical approaches. In particular, Professor Mancera will use molecular modelling to represent how cell membranes respond to dehydration, which is a result of the cells being exposed to extreme cold.

They are also investigating the different cryoprotective agents, or cryosolvents, that are used in cryopreservation.

“Ice kills cells, so agents are used to reduce the amount of ice that forms when the cells are frozen,” Professor Mancera said.

Unfortunately, a lot of agents are also toxic, and part of Professor Mancera’s research is to look into striking a balance between minimising the formation of ice and the toxicity of the agent.

Appointed as the leading chief investigator of the project, Professor Mancera will also collaborate with experts from RMIT University, the University of Western Australia and the King’s Park Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority.

This research has the potential to improve the cryopreservation of eggs, embryos and plant germplasm, with applications in assisted-reproductive technology as well as animal and plant conservation. It could also play a role in improving and developing new ways to preserve the tissues of organs, particularly in organ transport and transplant, as well as for future regeneration.