Marshmallow Gel Makes Embryos Easier To Transport

Scientists in Japan have developed marshmallow-like silicone gels as insulation for transferring cryopreserved embryos between laboratories.

AsianScientist (Dec. 13, 2017) – In a study published in Applied Materials Today, scientists in Japan describe a method to refrigerate mouse embryos while maintaining a high embryo survival rate.

As genetically modified mice are increasingly used in medical and biological research, there is a need for more efficient ways of transporting cryopreserved mouse embryos and sperm. For the preservation of frozen embryos and sperm, liquid nitrogen is used to keep temperatures in the transport containers below -150°C. These containers are heavy and often expensive, especially when used for short distance transportation.

In this study, a microporous, silicone-based gel was developed and tested for its ability to retain liquid nitrogen. These marshmallow-like gels (MGs) had a skeleton diameter of a few micrometers and pore diameter of several tens of micrometers, also possessing high flexibility against compression and bending, as well as low thermal conductivity.

The researchers packed the MGs into a commercially available, vacuum insulated water bottle and tested its absorption of liquid nitrogen. They found that the gel was able to keep the temperature inside the container below -150°C for ten hours. As a further test, the researchers placed mouse embryos in the container with the gel for nine hours and found no significant decrease in the embryos’ survival rate.

Since the MGs showed little deterioration after exposure to the liquid nitrogen, they can be used repeatedly. The process of fabricating MGs is also simple and can be prepared by users without experience in chemical synthesis, thus presenting an inexpensive and straightforward way to transfer viable embryos between labs.



The article can be found at: Hayase & Ohya (2017) Marshmallow-like Silicone Gels as Flexible Thermal Insulators and Liquid Nitrogen Retention Materials and Their Application in Containers for Cryopreserved Embryos.

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Source: Tohoku University; Photo: Gen Hayase.
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