Cryogenics Has Made Huge Strides In Development
Cryogenics is the process through which organs and other tissues are being frozen at very low temperatures in order to preserve them. But there is a major snag with this procedure. When something is being frozen, ice crystals form between cells. And these ice crystals can easily pierce the cells and damage the entire tissue beyond repair.
To date, cryogenics is only viable when using it on small samples like sperm or embryos, but anything larger than that is out of the question. And even to achieve a successful “defrosting” at that size, scientists made use of techniques such as slow warming. But this technique doesn’t work on larger tissue samples such as human organs.
These development has made the idea of using cryogenics on an entire human body next to impossible. Nevertheless, a recent study made by lead researcher John Bischof from the University of Minnesota and his team have brought forth a new technique that was successful in warming up some human and pig tissues, without suffering any damage.
“This is the first time that anyone has been able to scale up to a larger biological system and demonstrate successful, fast, and uniform warming of hundreds of degrees Celsius per minute of preserved tissue without damaging the tissue,” said John Bischof.
By making use of some nanoparticles that were able to heat the tissue at an equal rate, the scientists were able to prevent the formation of those ice crystals. To make these nanoparticles, the team mixed in some silica-coated iron oxide particles in a solution and then applied an external magnetic field in order to generate heat.
The use of Cryogenics
We’re all pretty familiar with what cryogenics could be used for. Sci-fi movies have been using it a lot and we know that with it, we could, theoretically, preserve organs or entire human beings indefinitely. This new discovery hasn’t yet brought cryogenics out of the realm of sci-fi, but it is a major step in that direction. The most obvious and immediate use of the technique would be in storing human organs for extended periods of time and thus improving on the challenges of moving them from one place to another in the case of an emergency.
In the US alone, about 22 people die daily while on the organ-donor list. And while there definitely is a shortage of viable organs out there, the fact that one can only be preserved for only several hours severely increases the problem. It is estimated that about half of all the hearts and lungs that are available for transplant become useless because they can’t reach the patients on time.
“If only half of these discarded organs were transplanted, then it has been estimated that wait lists for these organs could be extinguished within two to three years,” Bischof adds.
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