Antifreeze Proteins to the Rescue!
Natural Cryoprotectants enable improved Cold-Storage of Red Blood Cells
Date of Press Release: January 26, 2022
Several organisms in Alaska use antifreeze proteins (AFP) to enable survival in icy and sub-zero conditions. Scientists have known about these natural cryoprotectants for decades and have been studying their unique properties. AFPs are able to lower the freezing point of an aqeuous solution, can shape ice crystals into unusual shapes, and can stop the macroscopic growth of ice crystals. The AFP’s are key for the survival of Alaskan animals and plants, but their unique properties is also highly beneficial for the cold-storage of biological tissues (e.g red blood cells) and other water-based materials.
An international team of scientists led by UAS chemist Konrad Meister has now gained new insights into which of the AFP’s properties results in beneficial effects during and after cryostorage of red blood cells. By investigating different AFP classes, the scientists discovered that apart from the known abilities to affect ice growth, another important property of AFPs to enable cold storage of cells is an ability to stabilize cell membranes. These important findings are key for the identification and development of novel natural and synthetic cryoprotectants and were published in Biomacromolecules.
“The idea that we use proteins derived from Alaskan organisms to improve cryopreservation of red blood cells is exciting given that getting donor cells to rural Alaska remains challenging; as shown by our current blood shortage crisis” says Theodore Hooker, an UAS undergraduate student involved in the project.
The results are very exciting and are an important first step towards the wider usage of AFPs in medical applications that yield human benefits underlines UAS chemist Konrad Meister. The current study was made possible through funding from the Biomedical Learning and Student Training (BLaST) program and the IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE). The research was published this month in a paper titled Ice Recrystallization Inhibition Is Insufficient to Explain Cryopreservation Abilities of Antifreeze Proteins.
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University of Alaska Southeast