OSU research could increase shelf life of human organs

Alexandra LaCesa, News Contributor

Recent findings from OSUs Chemical, Biological and Environmental Engineering have opened the door to a new approach, lengthening the shelf life of preserving organs and tissues in their entirety.

Associate Professor Adam Higgins partnered with student researcherAllyson Fry, and has been conducting research since 2008. According to Fry, in the first few years of their developing research they focused mostly on vitrification is a process of preserving cells in a glassy state completely absent of ice crystals which are damaging to tissue.

Experiments could last as long as 10 to 12 hour days. Most experiments were performed in the biosafety cabinet or in our dark microscopy room.

We developed methods to monitor how the cells were being loaded and unloaded with CPA, as well as models to describe the process that could be mathematically optimized, Fry said.

Before returning back to his alma mater for teaching and research, Higgins studied Cryopreservation at Georgia Tech.

I hadn’t even really heard of cryopreservation before graduate school, Higgins said. But I was interested in doing research that involved cells and tissues, also something that involved mathematical modeling.

Its essentially not that different from frozen food, Higgins said.

He is now generating final proposals to seek funding for the next step of this project. Higgins said he would like to be working on 3-D models of sample tissue from tumor biopsies that are preserved and used for personalized medicine.

According to Higgins, the demand for longer preservation of organs and tissues is apparent and a breakthrough that could potentially save many lives is just around the corner.

When an organ is being transplanted, it has only a few hours to live, with this breakthrough it could be possible to store organs weeks to months.

Higgins is aware of the long and difficult process of trial and error ahead of him. His goal is to pay extremely close attention to the organs that are in highest demand with the smallest survival rate. This is going to take time, according to Higgins.

In order for OSU to move forward with funding these next few months, a model must be constructed to demonstrate the process of cryopreservation, Higgins said.

Earning grants from Government funding such as National Science Foundation, will allow Higgins and students to start utilizing the laboratory more frequently.

According to Higgins, once this research is funded and has begun, students at OSU will have the opportunity to work side by side with Higgins.

The University cares a lot about the students, training students by teaching classes, and really getting the students involved, Higgins said. Its a really good environment to work in.

Given the large amount of student researchers on campus, a program was recently implemented that rotates students in and out of various research projects to allow them to find their specific area of interest, said Higgins.

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