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Proteins Revolutionize Organ Preservation

A new study has revealed that specialized proteins can dramatically delay ice crystal evolvement, even in extreme cold down to minus 80 degrees Celsius. This breakthrough could revolutionize freezing methods, offering new possibilities for the long-term preservation of tissues and organs. Such advancements might pave the way for organ transplants that were once considered impossible, transforming medical practices and saving countless lives.

 

[Hebrew University of Jerusalem]– Cryogenic damage has long presented a significant barrier to effective organ preservation, posing challenges to advancements in transplantation and medical treatments. The formation of ice crystals during freezing can compromise cellular structures, leading to irreversible damage and organ failure. However, a new study led by Prof. Ido Braslavsky, Dr. Vera Sirotinskaya, and Dr. Liat Bahari from the Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment at the Hebrew University, in collaboration with Dr. Victor Yashunsky from Ben Gurion University of the Negev and Dr. Maya Bar Dolev from the Technion, has unveiled a promising solution.

 

Cryogenic damage significantly impacts the potential success of organ preservation, affecting thousands of people worldwide who are in need of organ transplants. Each year, millions of individuals are diagnosed with conditions that could be treated with organ transplants, yet the shortage of viable, preserved organs leaves many on long waiting lists. The inability to effectively preserve organs for extended periods means that a substantial number of organs are discarded due to damage from ice crystal formation and other cryogenic effects. This not only limits the number of transplants that can be performed but also exacerbates the shortage, ultimately impacting the health and survival of countless patients who depend on these life-saving procedures.

 

Building on the foundation of previous research into ice-binding proteins (IBPs), this groundbreaking study demonstrates how the strategic use of antifreeze proteins (AFPs) can mitigate cryogenic damage and revolutionize organ freezing techniques. Through the strategic deployment of different types of antifreeze proteins, such as AFPIII from fish and TmAFP from larvae of flour beetles, the research team successfully delayed crystallization and influence devitrification even at temperatures below -80 degrees Celsius.

 

Utilizing a state-of-the-art microscope stage capable of precise temperature control and rapid cooling at a rate of 100 degrees Celsius per second, the study compared samples containing antifreeze proteins with those without. These samples were not frozen to an astonishing -180 degrees Celsius but when thawed gradually some were frozen while other did not. The samples were analysed under a microscope.

 

“The findings of our research mark a significant step forward in organ preservation technology,” explained Dr. Maya Bar Dolev. “By inhibiting crystallization and crystal growth, antifreeze proteins hold immense promise for extending the viability of frozen organs and enabling previously impossible transplants.”

 

Prof. Ido Braslavsky further emphasized the potential impact of this breakthrough: “This advancement opens doors to a new era in tissue preservation and organ transplantation. With further development, we envision longer preservation periods, enhanced quality during transport, and innovative transplant procedures, including complex organ combinations like heart-lung transplants and uterine tissue transplants.”

 

The implications of this research are profound, offering hope for improved organ availability, extended preservation windows, and ultimately, saving countless lives. As the field of tissue preservation embraces the potential of antifreeze proteins, the future of organ transplantation shines brighter than ever before.

 

The research paper titled “Extended Temperature Range of the Ice-Binding Protein Activity” is now available in Langmuir and can be accessed at https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.langmuir.3c03710.

 

Researchers:

Vera Sirotinskaya1, Maya Bar Dolev1,2, Victor Yashunsky1,3, Liat Bahari1, and Ido Braslavsky1

 

Institutions:

1) Institute of Biochemistry, Food Science, and Nutrition, Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

2) Faculty of Biotechnology and Food Engineering, Technion

3) The Swiss Institute for Dryland Environmental and Energy Research, Ben Gurion University

 

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem is Israel’s premier academic and research institution. Serving over 23,000 students from 80 countries, the University produces nearly 40% of Israel’s civilian scientific research and has received over 11,000 patents. Faculty and alumni of the Hebrew University have won eight Nobel Prizes and a Fields Medal. For more information about the Hebrew University, please visit http://new.huji.ac.il/en. 

 

 

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