April 14, 2022
The primary step in cryobanking involves mixing cryoprotectant agents (CPAs), such as dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO), glycerol, and propylene glycol with biological samples before cooling. Different freezing methods are then applied to preserve compounds such as enzymes within the cells. The samples are then stored in liquid nitrogen or dry ice for at least 5 to 24 hours. The cells are then slowly warmed to let them dehydrate and prevent the damage caused due to intracellular ice, known as the thawing process. The final step includes the removal of the CPAs from the samples.
Every opportunity comes with multiple challenges. Cryobanking also has its limitations. Freezing reduces the recovery rate of samples, thus causing discrepancies in clinical applications. The formation of ice crystals damages the samples. Biobanks use CPAs and control the rate of freezing to overcome this challenge. CPAs introduce another challenge, cytotoxicity, if used in high concentrations. Biobanks should use a combination of CPAs to prevent cellular cytotoxicity.
Even though cryobanking is done to preserve samples for years, many samples get destroyed in the process, depending on their adoption to freezing. For example, T cells recover well when frozen but their functionality may get compromised, whereas granulocytes do not recover after freezing. Ex vivo tissue cultures such as organoids lose heterogeneity on freezing. RNA samples degrade in a – 80°C freezer if opened many times. Therefore, it is important to properly cryopreserve samples based on the sample or tissue type and carefully handle them.
Researchers have been looking for ways to enhance the cryobanking process to store the samples more efficiently. Researchers are looking for:
A biospecimen management system, also known as biobanking LIMS, helps automate cryobanking workflows, reduces the need for labor, and eliminates manual errors. A biospecimen management system helps manage freezer inventory and shipment of samples. Moreover, a biospecimen management system tracks samples using barcodes through the sample life cycle. ULT freezers need to maintain a certain temperature to store samples. They require regular maintenance to do so. A biospecimen management system can help cryobanks schedule maintenance periodically and record maintenance data for internal and external audits.
A temperature monitoring system helps monitor the temperature of freezers in real-time, thus providing more control and visibility to cryobank managers. A biospecimen management system can be integrated with IoT-powered temperature monitoring systems to centrally store temperature data of all freezers and analyze trends over a period of time. This helps cryobank managers to get alerts on temperature changes and fluctuations, enabling them to take necessary actions as and when required.
Cryobanking aids in the success of many medical procedures by preserving beneficial samples for years. The process has been gaining importance in many emerging areas, including cell therapy. For example, CAR-T cell therapy for treating cancer. The applications of cryobanking are likely to expand in the future, with its continuous contribution to medical research. However, successful cryobanking requires the right freezers, temperature control, and process automation. A sample management software is a perfect partner for cryobanks to enhance their operational efficiency.