Ice formation in isolated human hepatocytes and human liver tissue

John C. Bischof, Colleen M. Ryan, Ronald G. Tompkins, Martin L. Yarmush, Mehmet Toner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Cryopreservation of isolated cells and tissue slices of human liver is required to furnish extracorporeal bioartificial liver devices with a ready supply of hepatocytes, and to create in vitro drug metabolism and toxicity models. Although both the bioartificial liver and many current biotoxicity models are based on reconstructing organ functions from single isolated hepatocytes, tissue slices offer an in vitro system that may more closely resemble the in vivo situation of the cells because of cell-cell and cell-extracellular matrix interactions. However, successful cryopreservation of both cellular and tissue level systems requires an increased understanding of the fundamental mechanisms involved in the response of the liver and its cells to freezing stress. This study investigates the biophysical mechanisms of water transport and intracellular ice formation during freezing in both isolated human hepatocytes and whole liver tissue. The effects of cooling rate on individual cells were measured using a cryomicroscope. Biophysical parameters governing water transport (Lpg = 2.8 μm/min-atm and ELp = 79 kcal/mole) and intracellular heterogeneous ice nucleation (Ωhet = 1.08×109 m-2 s-1 and κhet = 1.04×109 K5) were determined. These parameters were then incorporated into a theoretical Krogh cylinder model developed to simulate water transport and ice formation in intact liver tissue. Model simulations indicated that the cellular compartment of the Krogh model maintained more water than isolated cells under the same freezing conditions. As a result, intracellular ice nucleation occurred at lower cooling rates in the Krogh model than in isolated cells. Furthermore, very rapid cooling rates (1000 °C/min) showed a depression of heterogeneous nucleation and a shift toward homogeneous nucleation. The results of this study are in qualitative agreement with the findings of a previous experimental study of the response to freezing of intact human liver.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)271-278
Number of pages8
JournalASAIO Journal
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1997


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