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Vitrification Successfully Preserves Hepatocyte Spheroids

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This is the first report on low-temperature preservation of self-assembled cell aggregates by vitrification, which is both a time- and cost-effective technology. We developed an effective protocol for vitrification (ice-free cryopreservation) of hepatocyte spheroids that employs rapid stepwise exposure to cryoprotectants (10.5 min) at room temperature and direct immersion into liquid nitrogen (−196°C). For this, three vitrification solutions (VS) were formulated and their effects on vitrified-warmed spheroids were examined. Cryopreservation using ethylene glycol (EG)-sucrose VS showed excellent preservation capability whereby highly preserved cell viability and integrity of vitrified spheroids were observed, through confocal and scanning electron microscopy imaging, when compared to untreated control. The metabolic functions of EG-sucrose VS-cryopreserved spheroids, as assessed by urea production and albumin secretion, were not significantly different from those of control within the same day of observation. In both the vitrification and control groups, albumin secretion was consistently high, ranging from 47.57 ± 14.39 to 70.38 ± 11.29 g/106 cells and from 56.84 ± 14.48 to 71.79 ± 16.65 g/106 cells, respectively, and urea production gradually increased through the culture period. The efficacy of vitrification procedure in preserving the functional ability of hepatocyte spheroids was not improved by introduction of a second penetrating cryoprotectant, 1,2-propanediol (PD). Spheroids cryopreserved with EG-PD-sucrose VS showed maintained cell viability; however, in continuous culture, levels of both metabolic functions were lower than those cryopreserved with EG-sucrose VS. EG-PD VS, in which nonpenetrating cryoprotectant (sucrose) was excluded, provided poor protection to spheroids during cryopreservation. This study demonstrated that sucrose plays an important role in the effective vitrification of self-assembled cell aggregates. In a broad view, the excellent results obtained suggest that the developed vitrification strategy, which is an alternative to freezing, may be effectively used as a platform technology in the field of cell transplantation.
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Keywords: Cryoprotectants; Hepatocyte spheroids; Preservation; Vitrification

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2008-07-01

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  • Cell Transplantation publishes original, peer-reviewed research and review articles on the subject of cell transplantation and its application to human diseases. To ensure high-quality contributions from all areas of transplantation, separate section editors and editorial boards have been established. Articles deal with a wide range of topics including physiological, medical, preclinical, tissue engineering, and device-oriented aspects of transplantation of nervous system, endocrine, growth factor-secreting, bone marrow, epithelial, endothelial, and genetically engineered cells, among others. Basic clinical studies and immunological research papers are also featured. To provide complete coverage of this revolutionary field, Cell Transplantation will report on relevant technological advances, and ethical and regulatory considerations of cell transplants. Cell Transplantation is now an Open Access journal starting with volume 18 in 2009, and therefore there will be an inexpensive publication charge, which is dependent on the number of pages, in addition to the charge for color figures. This will allow work to be disseminated to a wider audience and also entitle the corresponding author to a free PDF, as well as prepublication of an unedited version of the manuscript.

    Cell Transplantation is now being published by SAGE. Please visit their website for the most recent issues.

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