Mechanical Engineering Professor Yoed Rabin received a $1.6 million award from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health to develop technology for cryopreservation, the preservation of tissues and organs at extremely low temperatures. This research will impact the future of biobanking and transplant medicine.

Rabin is leading a team that seeks to protect biomaterials from the harmful effects of ice crystals during cryopreservation, which is so devastating to cells, tissues, and organs that they cannot regain viability and functionality after cryogenic storage. By introducing solutions known as cryoprotective agents (CPAs) and rapid cooling, the biological material can be trapped in a glassy-like state, in a process known as vitrification. The unique contribution of the current research is in the addition of synthetic ice modulators (SIMs), a special class of compounds that can create favorable conditions to deter the formation and growth of ice crystals.

Rabin, who directs the Biothermal Technology Laboratory at Carnegie Mellon, is a renowned leader on thermo-mechanical stress and structural damage in cryopreservation. His team combines expertise from the fields of cryobiology, chemistry, physics, thermal engineering, and solid mechanics, and they collaborate with leaders in the cryopreservation industry.

This project places an emphasis on blood vessels as a key building block of complex tissues and organs. “Vitrification techniques for cryopreservation have been investigated for decades,” he said. “While cryopreservation research has traditionally focused on phenomenological studies and diagnostic tools, our research aims at developing modeling and simulation tools to plan and optimize cryopreservation protocols. These developments are informed by experimental investigation on the physical effects of CPA-SIM cocktails with cutting-edge, proprietary instrumentation.”

Collaborators include: Mechanical Engineering professors Jonathan A. Malen and Paul S. Steif; Adjunct Mechanical Engineering Professor and Senior Scientist at Tissue Testing Technologies LLC Michael J. Taylor; and Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer at 21stCentury Medicine, Inc., Gregory M. Fahy.