We were pleased to be one of the commercial sponsors of this important meeting at Kings College Hospital, London, bringing together more than 60 stem cell practitioners to share knowledge and experiences and discuss current issues and difficulties. For this group, cryopreservation is a key enabling technology contributing to advances in both basic research and clinical practice. Consequently, a strong understanding of the principles underlying cryopreservation protocols is important to group members and we were happy to be able to support Professor Brian Grout*, a widely experienced cryobiologist and recent Chair of the Society for Low Temperature Biology, to contribute to the meeting.
Brian presented the audience with a cryobiologist’s view of the cryochain central to a stem cell user’s activities, moving from cell preparation to end use in the laboratory or on the clinical front-line. The intention was to present the pitfalls experienced by the audience in a cryobiological context and to point out where stronger biological understanding can be used to eliminate costly, and typically unintended, poor practice. Throughout, the concept was that all the cryopreservation team members need to be aware of the biological issues, especially where frozen material has to be recovered by separate groups e.g. clinicians, with the expectation of reproducible, high performance of the frozen product.
In particular, a good deal of attention was given to the benefits of controlled ice nucleation and the risks of damaging temperature rise to samples that are lifted up into the neck of storage vessels when searching for specific samples. Further, the potentially lethal effects of poorly controlled thawing protocols were examined together with some of the risks of microbial contamination of the cryogen in storage vessels and transit shippers. The need for strong, supporting biological knowledge to underpin successful cryopreservation was underlined and also the continuing need for sustained research and developments in technology; this, to strengthen the level of control available to those using stem cell cryopreservation as a near-routine tool. Positive feedback from the meeting was strong and we are looking forward to continuing our links with this stem cell users group in the coming year.
*Emeritus Professor, Life Sciences, Copenhagen University