Immortality: desiccation of human (stem) cells for long-term storage and cell therapy-based applications

Lead Research Organisation: University College London
Department Name: Cell and Developmental Biology


Although evidence exists that suggests the preparation of mammalian cells in a desiccated
state may be a feasible strategy for their long-term storage, no study has documented a
successful protocol. Considering a clinical translational endpoint, this project aims to identify
materials and/or techniques that can be applied to develop a desiccation-tolerant cell line
with the view of subsequent clinical application to human stem cells.
The project can be divided into the following activities:
1. Assessment of the feasibility of hydrogels, gel-based materials and/or exogenous
additives/supplements as "protectants" for cells undergoing a desiccation protocol for longterm
storage. Samples will include biologically-derived gels such as collagen/gelatin, agarose
and plant-based gels; synthetic materials such as glycidyl methacrylate (GMA), poly(Nisopropylacrylamide)(
PNIPAAm); supplements such as Late Embryogenesis Abundant (LEA)
proteins, heat-shock proteins (from extremophiles). Materials will be fully characterized and
assessed for their support of cells during culture, desiccation and rehydration.
2. To assess the "processing" parameters involved in the drying process: controlled removal
of water - either in a rapid or slow manner - will affect cell survival during desiccation due to
the differences in the fundamental mechanisms i.e. crystal growth, nucleation sites. A similar
process/mechanism occurs during rehydration of these cells, which would impact the
resulting viability and potential differentiative ability of the (stem) cells. This part of the
project will aim to identify the optimal rate/methodology of de- and re-hydrating the cells.
Potential computational analyses may also be exploited in this part of the project to model
the water loss from the samples.


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