Frozen Human Brain Tissue Brought Back To Life In Major Cryogenics Breakthrough

The new technique could pave the way for improved methods of studying neurological conditions.

AP/Lynne Sladky
A container with frozen embryos and sperm stored in liquid nitrogen is removed at a fertility clinic at Fort Myers, Florida. AP/Lynne Sladky

In a significant advancement in the field of cryogenics, researchers in China have managed to successfully freeze and thaw human brain tissue, which subsequently regained its normal function.

The new technique, developed by Dr. Zhicheng Shao and his team at Fudan University in Shanghai, could pave the way for improved methods of studying neurological conditions, Metro reports.

Traditionally, brain tissue does not survive the freezing and thawing process, a fact that hasn’t deterred individuals from paying to have their brains or entire bodies cryogenically frozen in hopes of future reanimation.

But the Fudan University research team has developed a solution capable of preserving brain tissue during the freezing process. Using human embryonic stem cells, they grew brain organoids — small clusters of self-organizing brain cells — over a period of three weeks, allowing them to develop into various types of brain cells.

The researchers then immersed these organoids in different chemical compounds, including sugars and antifreeze solutions, to preserve the tissue while frozen in liquid nitrogen for at least 24 hours. After thawing the samples, they monitored them for growth and cell death over the next two weeks.

Through extensive testing, they identified a combination of compounds that resulted in the least cell death and most growth after thawing. Further tests revealed that the brain organoids could continue to grow for up to 150 days post-thawing.

The new compound proved effective for freezing and thawing living brain tissue. The team tested 3-millimeter cubes of brain tissue removed from a 9-month-old girl with epilepsy and found that the tissue remained active for at least two weeks after being thawed.


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