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Title: Extreme biology: probing life at low water contents and temperatures

item Walters, Christina

Submitted to: Society for Cryobiology Meeting
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/30/2013
Publication Date: 7/30/2013
Citation: Walters, C.T. 2013. Extreme biology: probing life at low water contents and temperatures. Society for Cryobiology Meeting. p.52.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Germplasm that is dried or cryopreserved appears quiescent. However, changes occur in preserved germplasm, albeit slowly. Viability time courses follow a sigmoidal curve where there is a lag phase when changes can’t be detected, followed by a period of rapid mortality. Predicting longevity under extreme dry or cold conditions requires that we understand the interactions of temperature, moisture and cell constituents on the duration of the initial lag phase. Moreover, to elucidate why germplasm eventually succumbs, we need better assays to detect change under conditions where changes are presumed to not occur. The conceptual model we use is derived from investigations of movement and structure in visco-elastic materials and centers around measuring the properties of glasses formed in preserved germplasm. Orthodox seeds survive extreme drying and naturally form glasses at ambient temperatures. In contrast, cryopreservation treatments are needed to form glasses in desiccation-sensitive propagules, and strategies vary among labs and tissue types: vitrification by chemical dehydration, freeze desiccation during very slow cooling (~1oC/hr to -30oC), or partial air-drying and rapid cooling. Our work consists of measuring the properties of this array of different glasses. Differential Scanning Calorimetry (DSC) can determine the propensity for ice and lipid crystallization and recrystallization events during storage. Dynamic Mechanical Analysis (DMA) measures structural properties within the formed glasses and temperatures associated with relaxation events that destabilize the glass. The combination of techniques provides insight into the mechanisms and kinetics of change as well as thermo-dynamically based estimates of longevity of cryopreserved materials.