Low temperature light microscopy and its application to study freezing in aqueous solutions and biological cell suspensions

Ch Körber, S. Englich, P. Schwindke, M. W. Scheiwe, G. Rau, A. Hubel, E. G. Cravalho

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


The freezing of biological cell suspensions can be understood in terms of ice formation in the external suspension medium and the cellular reactions to the changing environment. Cryomicroscopy allows a quantitative analysis of both categories of phenomena. Besides freezing stages of appropriate thermal design, the components used for that purpose include a microcomputer (PSI 80) based control system, an image analysis system (Intellect 100) and a spectrophotometer (MPV compact). The investigation of extracellular ice formation is focused on the following effects: The redistribution of solutes in the residual liquid and the resulting concentration profiles are determined photometrically or densitometrically. The transitions between various morphologies of the ice–liquid phase boundary (planar–cellular–dendritic) can be related to interface instability theories. With respect to solute segregation, the studies also involve the formation of bubbles from supersaturated gaseous solutes and freezing potentials resulting from the differential incorporation of cations and anions into the solid phase. The interaction between particles or cells and the advancing ice front is determined from critical interface velocities marking the transition between repulsion and entrapment. The effects of freezing on biological cells are studied mainly with blood cells, especially lymphocytes. The water efflux due to osmotical gradients across the membrane yields volume shrinkage curves which are recorded and analysed from video images for various cooling rates. Beyond a certain threshold cooling rate, intracellular ice starts to form, and different crystallization morphologies can be detected. The intracellular crystallization temperatures depend on cooling and warming rates as well as on the presence of penetrating cryoadditives. A fluorescence viability is used to determine the percentage of damaged cells immediately after thawing. 1986 Blackwell Science Ltd

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)263-276
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Microscopy
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1986


  • Cryomicroscope
  • dendritic breakdown
  • exosmosis
  • freezing injury
  • freezing potential
  • freezing stage
  • gas bubble formation
  • ice‐liquid interface
  • interaction particle‐ice front
  • intracellular ice formation
  • solute polarization


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