A spin-drying technique for lyopreservation of mammalian cells

Nilay Chakraborty, Massachusetts General Hospital
Anthony Chang, Massachusetts General Hospital
Heidi Elmoazzen, Massachusetts General Hospital
Michael A. Menze, Eastern Illinois University
Steven C. Hand, Louisiana State University
Mehmet Toner, Massachusetts General Hospital


Stabilization of cellular material in the presence of glass-forming sugars at ambient temperatures is a viable approach that has many potential advantages over current cryogenic strategies. Experimental evidence indicates the possibility to preserve biomolecules in glassy matrices of low-molecular mobility using "glass-forming" sugars like trehalose at ambient temperatures. However, when cells are desiccated in trehalose solution using passive drying techniques, a glassy skin is formed at the liquid/vapor interface of the sample. This glassy skin prevents desiccation of the sample beyond a certain level of dryness and induces non-uniformities in the final water content. Cells trapped underneath this glassy skin may degrade due to a relatively high molecular mobility in the sample. This undesirable result underscores the need for development of a uniform, fast drying technique. In the present study, we report a new technique based on the principles of "spin drying" that can effectively address these problems. Forced convective evaporation of water along with the loss of solution due to centrifugal force leads to rapid vitrification of a thin layer of trehalose containing medium that remains on top of cells attached to the spinning glass substrate. The glassy layer produced has a consistent thickness and a small "surface-area-to- volume" ratio that minimizes any non-homogeneity. Thus, the chance of entrapping cells in a high-mobility environment decreases substantially. We compared numerical predictions to experimental observations of the drying time of 0.2-0.6 M trehalose solutions at a variety of spinning speeds ranging from 1000 to 4000 rpm. The model developed here predicts the formation of sugar films with thicknesses of 200-1000 nm, which was in good agreement with experimental results. Preliminary data suggest that after spin drying cells to about 0.159 ± 0.09 gH2O/gdw (n = 11, ±SE), more than 95% of cells were able to preserve their membrane integrity. Membrane integrity after spin drying is therefore considerably higher than what is achieved by conventional drying methods; where about 90% of cells lose membrane integrity at 0.4 gH 2O/gdw (Acker et al. Cell Preserv. Technol. 1(2):129-140, 2002; Elliott et al. Biopreserv. Biobank. 6(4):253-260, 2009). © 2011 Biomedical Engineering Society.