The Science Behind Suspended Animation

Portrait of Adam Higgins.
Event Speaker
Adam Higgins
Professor of Bioengineering
Event Type
CBEE Seminar
Event Location
Gleeson 100 and Zoom
Event Description

Cryopreservation places living material in a state of suspended animation. The applications for cryopreservation are vast, including conservation of endangered plants and animals, storage of gametes and embryos for assisted reproduction, blood transfusions, cell therapy, and tissue and organ transplantation. In my lab we have been studying the science behind cryopreservation, with an emphasis on development of new strategies to safely bring cells, tissues and organs into a state of suspended animation. To achieve this, the cells must survive the journey between normal physiological conditions and cryogenic temperatures – a journey that is fraught with peril. When the temperature dips below the freezing point, ice can form. Intracellular ice is typically lethal, and extracellular freezing can irreversibly damage the three-dimensional structure of tissues and organs. To avoid ice damage, chemicals known as cryoprotectants (CPAs) are used. A common example is the chemical used in automotive antifreeze: ethylene glycol. While these chemicals suppress ice formation, they can be toxic, and CPA exposure can cause damaging osmotic cell volume changes. In this presentation, I will highlight our attempts to overcome these challenges for cryopreservation of human red blood cells, tissue slices, vertebral bodies, intervertebral discs and vital organs such as the kidney.

Speaker Biography

Adam Higgins joined OSU as a faculty member in Bioengineering in 2008. His research focuses on technologies for cell, tissue and organ preservation, as well as high flow rate microfluidic devices for processing biological fluids such as blood. His work has been published in 39 peer reviewed journal articles, including an article that was highlighted on the cover of Biophysical Journal and an article that was selected as the 2018 best paper in the Cryobiology Journal. He has held various leadership positions, including serving as President of the Society for Cryobiology, and Director of the OSU Bioengineering Graduate Program.