A podcast from the June 26th Telluride Science Research Center Conference "Cryopreservation grand challenges: fundamental molecular science to applications" is available where BioCoR director Allison Hubel and other experts discuss cryopreservation!
What we do
The mission of the University of Minnesota Biopreservation Core Resource BioCoR is to advance the science, technology and practice of biospecimen preservation by developing specific biopreservation protocols, improve preservation and storage technologies, establish standards and guidelines and to train individuals and institutions in the science and technology of biopreservation.
Effective methods of processing, preservation, and storage are critical to research on and clinical use of biospecimens. BioCoR aims at providing a unique resource for the biospecimen community by serving to improve the quality of biospecimens available for biomedical research and clinical use. BioCoR faculty are involved in government and industry sponsored research projects that address fundamental issues in preservation.
Biospecimen procurers and users are separated by gaps, which are typically both physical (different location) and temporal (different time). Therefore, the usefulness of a biospecimen is determined in large part by our ability to efficiently preserve the critical biological properties of the biospecimen (e.g. stabilization of the biomarkers) and its function (e.g. for therapeutic purposes). Conventional methods of preserving biospecimens were developed in the 1970's and there has been little evolution in the techniques used to preserve biospecimens in the intervening decades. As a result, today we are in a situation where we have very limited knowledge, technology and resources (and thus we fail) to successfully preserve the many promising diagnostic and therapeutic biospecimens we have discovered to date. Lack of progress in biopreservation area has resulted partially from certain misconceptions:
Misconception #1: We have effective methods of preservation for all the biospecimens of interest.
Reality: Many biospecimens of tremendous interest cannot be effectively preserved. The following is a partial listing of biospecimens that respond poorly to conventional preservation methods (poor recovery, brief shelf life, poor retention of function, etc.): platelets, granulocytes, human embryonic stem (hESCs) cells, cells preserved in their intact tissue (vs. isolating them into suspension).
Misconception #2: Conventional methods of preserving biospecimens that are successful are suitable for new and emerging applications.
Reality: The vast majority of cells that are cryopreserved for therapeutic applications (lymphocytes, HSCs, MSCs) use a cryopreservation solution containing 10% v/v dimethylsulfoxide (DMSO). Despite its clinical use as a cryoprotective agent, DMSO is not approved for systemic administration, including intravascular infusion. Low levels of DMSO have been associated with a series of epigenetic events such as DNA methylation and histone modification. A lesser known fact is that at specific concentrations DMSO causes irreversible denaturation of macromolecules
Misconception #3: Current technology for cell preservation is adequate
Reality: Existing technology does not permit us to monitor biospecimen quality during transportation and long storage. Ideally, we would want to continuously monitor biospecimen quality at all times during processing and storage and use these measurements to qualify (or disqualify) a specific biospecimen. Unfortunately, there is no direct method of monitoring biospecimen quality, in particular at low temperatures.
As a resource, BioCoR provides three basic functions for individual researchers and institutions (academic, industrial, and government):
- Service Resource for those who need assistance in developing standard biopreservation protocols and techniques
- Research Resource where new methods of preserving biospecimens and technology to improve biospecimen quality are developed, directly feeding back into the service resource
- Education/Training/Development Resource for educating individuals and institutions on the scientific basis for preservation, teaching best practices and supplying protocol-specific as a service to the community
BioCoR is part of ATP-Bio, an NSF Engineering Research Center (ERC) for the Advanced Technologies for the Preservation of Biological Systems
BioCoR is supported through the Academic Health Center, College of Science & Engineering, Medical School, Medical Device Center, and the Institute for Engineering in Medicine at the University of Minnesota.