Surface-based cryopreservation strategies for human embryonic stem cells: A comparative study

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Abstract

Human embryonic stem cells (hESC) hold tremendous potential in the emerging fields of gene and cell therapy as well as in basic scientific research. One of the major challenges regarding their application is the development of efficient cryopreservation protocols for hESC since current methods present poor recovery rates and/or technical difficulties which impair the development of effective processes that can handle bulk quantities of pluripotent cells. The main focus of this work was to compare different strategies for the cryopreservation of adherent hESC colonies. Slow-rate freezing protocols using intact hESC colonies was evaluated and compared with a surface-based vitrification approach. Entrapment within ultra-high viscous alginate was investigated as the main strategy to avoid the commonly observed loss of viability and colony fragmentation during slow-rate freezing. Our results indicate that entrapment beneath a layer of ultra-high viscous alginate does not provide further protection to hESC cryopreserved through slow-rate freezing, irrespectively of the cryomedium used. Vitrification of adherent hESC colonies on culture dishes yielded significantly higher recovery rates when compared to the slow-rate freezing approaches investigated. The pluripotency of hESC was not changed after a vitrification/thawing cycle and during further propagation in culture. In conclusion, from the cryopreservation methods investigated in this study, surface-based vitrification of hESC has proven to be the most efficient for the cryopreservation of intact hESC colonies, reducing the time required to amplify frozen stocks thus supporting the widespread use of these cells in research and clinical applications. © 2012 American Institute of Chemical Engineers Biotechnol. Prog., 28: 1079–1087, 2012

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