FEB 23, 2016 05:25 AM PST

A Frozen Bunny Brain Takes The Prize

While the concept of cryopreservation is usually found only in the plots of science fiction movies, it could be getting closer to science fact. 21st Century Medicine, a company in Fontana, CA has been awarded the Small Mammal Brain Preservation Prize by the Brain Preservation Foundation. The team at 21CM froze the brain of a rabbit and was able to later warm the brain, with little to no damage to the neuronal network. It’s a first in neuroscience, and it’s getting a lot of notice.
Freezing the brain of a rabbit could lead to advances in cryopreservation
Robert McIntyre, an MIT graduate, led the team from 21CM and authored the paper on the process which was published in the December 2015 issue of the journal Cryobiology.
 
The success was due to a new technique used, called Aldehyde-stabilized cryopreservation or ASC. Normally, freezing tissue results in dehydration that destroys cells in the tissue, preventing it from being functional when re-warmed. The process used by the team at 21CM involved injecting chemicals as a protectant into the vascular system of the rabbit to prepare it for being frozen. The substance glutaraldehyde is a thick liquid that causes proteins in the brain tissue to bind together. Following that, ethylene glycol, the main ingredient in automotive anti-freeze, is injected to protect the tissue from the harmful effects of cryopreservation.
 
The freezing process itself was designed to stop the rabid decay at the metabolic level that normally occurs after an animal has died. The brain was cooled to a temperature of minus 211 degrees Fahrenheit.
 
The real test of the process came when the brain was warmed back to normal temperature. At that point the chemicals were removed and the judges at the BPF were able to use an electron microscope to confirm that the cell membranes, intracellular structures and even the synapses between neurons were all intact.
 
In a press release from the Brain Preservation Foundation, Dr. Kenneth Hayworth, the foundation’s president said, “Every neuron and synapse looks beautifully preserved across the entire brain. Simply amazing given that I held in my hand this very same brain when it was vitrified glassy solid. This is not your father’s cryonics.”
 
The BPF’s co-founder, John Smart, told Motherboard.com, “This is a big deal. It’s the first time that we have a procedure that can protect everything neuroscientists think is involved with learning and memory. Given the results announced today, it seems to me that long-term memories are successfully preserved by this technique. This is not yet certain or universally agreed, but seems highly likely from my position.” ()
 
The Small Mammal Brain Preservation Prize is worth $26, 735. The competition was begun 5 years ago as a challenge from the BPF to the research community to find a way to preserve human tissue without damage. There is currently a prize for Large Mammal Brain Preservation as well, but that has not been awarded yet.  Check out the video below to learn more about this are of research and what it might mean for the future of neuroscience.
 
About the Author
  • I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.
You May Also Like
SEP 01, 2018
Videos
SEP 01, 2018
Modeling the Blood Brain Barrier on a Chip
Organ chips are great for studying parts of the human body that are challenging to explore....
SEP 10, 2018
Genetics & Genomics
SEP 10, 2018
In Autism, Background Mutations can Impact Disease Severity
While people are made from the same genes, small changes in those genes can have an impact on our biology....
SEP 22, 2018
Immunology
SEP 22, 2018
Could Diet Protect Against Brain Inflammation?
Immune brain cell inflammation due to aging can be mitigated through a high fiber diet...
NOV 01, 2018
Microbiology
NOV 01, 2018
Gut Bacteria can Have an Impact on Movement
One strain of gut bacteria can change how a fruit fly moves....
NOV 07, 2018
Immunology
NOV 07, 2018
Is Your Brain Asking for High Blood Pressure?
Study finds that the brain is sending signals to the bone marrow to increase blood pressure....
NOV 15, 2018
Cannabis Sciences
NOV 15, 2018
Marijuana-Induced Cyclic Vomiting
Trigger warning: If you are a bit squeamish about emesis (vomiting) then this article may not be for you. Otherwise, prepare yourself to learn about a...
Loading Comments...