Man has conquered freezing a human embryo, because it’s a simple cell structure. The difficulty comes in freezing complex substances such as human tissues, because they contain fluid which forms crystals when frozen.
But researchers at Villanova University are making impressive strides in cryopreservation, a process that will become critical while, independently, researchers are harvesting stem cells and growing human organs for transplant.
“The most important applications are in organ and tissue transplants,” Dr. Jens Karlsson tells KTRH News. “Specifically in the field of tissue engineering, fields in which researchers are trying to make artificial tissues and organs that consist of living cells. Because there is such a shortage of organ donors there are labs growing these replacement organs and tissues made from living cells and they would be used as transplants instead of waiting for a living donor. If you made one these you could put it into a patient. But if you want to be able to manufacture organs on an industrial scale you need a way of preserving them so you have a way to store them and ship them.”
It sounds like science fiction, the idea of harvesting organs by means of stem cells and producing them on a mass scale, but it is one of the directions medical science is headed. The Center for Cell and Organ Biotechnology, a new collaboration with the Texas Heart Institute and Texas A & M, is working on cutting edge medical research similar to the work being done at Villanova.