Core Dynamics’ technology to cryopreserve cells opens up a whole new world of opportunity. Image: Freeze-dried and reconstituted leukocytes.Freeze-drying is that ubiquitous technology used in every packet we buy of instant coffee, tea, soup, even fish food. The process — whose history ranges from potatoes dried in caves in the Peruvian Andes to ice cream for NASA astronauts — allows for better availability, easier handling, and reduced storage costs.
In the medical arena, scientists have long been trying to find a low-cost method of freeze drying cells for clinical use. This has been hobbled by the cryoprotectant agents used to preserve cells, such as glycerol, which are toxic to cells at high concentrations. In addition, storing frozen cells with liquid nitrogen (at -196 degrees Celsius), is costly and complicated, with special transportation and storage requirements.
Now, an Israeli-US biotechnology company, Core Dynamics, has developed innovative freeze-drying applications based on a technology called Multi Thermal Gradient (MTG), which enables the cryopreservation of cells at minimal cost for long periods of time.
Core Dynamics, which is headquartered in New Jersey, with R&D in Ness Ziona, Israel, recently announced the results of new research published in the journal PLos One, which proved for the first time that cloning with freeze-dried somatic cells is possible. Core Dynamics’ freeze-drying technology was used in the study.
“These results validate the potential of Core Dynamics’ freeze-drying technology across a broad range of scientific, medical and commercial applications,” says Dr. Amir Arav, Core Dynamics’ founder and chief technology officer.
A real-life Noah’s Ark
Cloning is just one area that could benefit from Core Dynamics’ technology, notes Arav. Cloning starts when an egg without genetic material is injected with cells that contain it. Up until now, these cells had to be fresh, or frozen and thawed just before injection.
In the PLos One investigation, cells were freeze-dried and stored for three years at room temperature. They were then revived by adding water and successfully used to form sheep embryos.
“We didn’t see any reduction in the viability of the cells during the three years; therefore, theoretically they could be stored indefinitely under optimal conditions,” stated lead investigator Professor Pasqualino Loi, of the Department of Comparative Biomedical Sciences at Teramo University in Italy.
“This milestone could signal the dawn of a new era in biomedicine by facilitating the use of cells that can regenerate damaged tissue in the cartilage and heart and other tissue or organs, as well as by significantly increasing access to red-blood, bone-marrow and other cells currently used in medical care,” Dr. Loi added.
Animal conservation is another area that could benefit from the new technology. The cells of animals threatened with extinction could be freeze dried to allow for easy and inexpensive transportation and storage. Freeze-drying also eliminates the need for specialized equipment that is not always available in developing countries.
Core Dynamics is voluntarily involved in a “Noah’s Ark” project to cryopreserve cells from endangered species in the Middle East, such as the Somalian wild ass, which is on the brink of extinction. “We keep the cells under optimal conditions, safe even from radiation,” Arav says. “And if people from abroad send us cells of endangered species, we will preserve those too.”
Improving the odds for transplants
Core Dynamics’ research has led to the successful freezing and lyophilization (freeze-drying) of white blood cells and stem cells. Applying the freezing technology and protocols to cartilage has led to the successful long term preservation of osteo-chondral allograft (bone and cartilage) plugs. In a series of clinical trials over the past year, preserved plugs were transplanted in patients suffering from cartilage damage in the knee.
In the area of whole organs, Core Dynamics successfully transplanted frozen thawed ovaries in large animals, and intends to apply the technology to humans for the purpose of fertility preservation in young women having to undergo chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
In October, the company announced it had developed a way of freezing and thawing a pig’s liver so that the organ was not destroyed. The thawed-out liver appeared to function normally when transplanted into a new pig. Core Dynamics hopes this work could lead to advances in human organ transplants, and eventually lead to the creation of frozen organ banks. At present, organs must be transplanted within 24 hours and researchers have been seeking ways to cope with delay time between donation and transplant operation.