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Nanowarming Provides Big Results for Transplant Patients



Review of “Improved tissue cryopreservation using inductive heating of magnetic nanoparticles” from Science Translational Medicine by Stuart P. Atkinson

While current cryopreservation techniques can extend the lifespan of the limited number of transplantable donor tissues, the rewarming process presents problems that reduce tissue viability. However, an exciting new study from the laboratory of John C. Bischof (University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, USA) in Science Translational Medicine has described a new nanotechnological advance that may solve these problems. 

Manuchehrabadi et al demonstrate that “nanowarming” employing iron oxide nanoparticles (IONPs) can provide rapid and uniform heating to large-volume cryopreserved tissues in what could represent a massive step forward in the organ transplant field [1].

Cryopreservation of donor tissues normally employs a process known as vitrification, a kinetic process of liquid solidification into glass, and employs a cryoprotectant solution such as VS55. While this step does not present any problems, current gold standard convective rewarming techniques (i.e. transfer of heat from one place to another by the movement of fluids) cannot provide the rapid and uniform heat transfer required to inhibit cracking and crystallization during thawing of samples larger than 50 milliliters.

However, doping the cryoprotectant solution with huge numbers of IONPs allowed the authors of this new study to uniformly and rapidly rewarm cryopreserved samples via the application of an alternating magnetic field to excite the metal nanoparticles. The nanowarming technique matched or surpassed gold standard convective warming in 1- to 50- milliliter systems (including human fibroblasts, pig arteries, and pig heart valve tissue) and improved the range of applicable sample size towards 80 milliliters. Importantly, biomechanical testing indicated that nanowarming did not alter the biomechanical properties of cryopreserved porcine arteries, as compared to an untreated fresh control artery.

Will nanowarming provide big results for transplant patients? To address this, the authors aim to scale-up their system in order to accommodate organs (rat, rabbit, pig, then humans!) and the team even foresee the use of their nanoparticle system in other fields, such as the heat-driven death of cancer cells.

To keep yourself appraised of all the big news about nanowarming and organ transplants, stay tuned to the Stem Cells Portal!


  1. Manuchehrabadi N, Gao Z, Zhang J, et al. Improved tissue cryopreservation using inductive heating of magnetic nanoparticles. Science Translational Medicine 2017;9: