MadSci Network: Biochemistry

Re: Why glycerol reduces the amount of ice in cells during cryopreservation?

Date: Wed Jul 7 13:08:15 1999
Posted By: Pamela Norton, faculty, Dept. of Medicine, Thomas Jefferson Univ.
Area of science: Biochemistry
ID: 924636145.Bc

I guess that I should state that I am not a real expert in cryobiology.

        There are two deleterious consequences of the accumulation of ice 
crystals in cells: the ice may cause mechanical stress and it can lead to 
osmotic stress, either at the time of ice formation or upon thawing. 
Depletion of intracellular water should reduce the potential damage. This 
can be accomplished by having the solution outside the cell contain a lower 
concentration of water than is present inside the cell. The glycerol can 
enter the cell. I believe that this prevents a loss of cell volume, which 
would otherwise occur with the exit of a lot of water. By maintaining the 
cell volume, the salt concentration is also maintained. But I could be 
wrong about this part. The effects of the glycerol, or other 
cryoprotectants, are not understood completely.

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