What is Cryobiology?

By Robert O. Dewald | Date Submitted: 01/05/12

Category: Health/Fitness
Keywords: Cord blood banks
Summary: The in-depth research of all things cryogenic over the last fifty years has led to numerous breakthroughs and scientific advancements. So many in fact that the area of science covered by cryogenics has been broken down into more specific subcategorie


The in-depth research of all things cryogenic over the last fifty years has led to numerous breakthroughs and scientific advancements. So many in fact that the area of science covered by cryogenics has been broken down into more specific subcategories much like biology is broken down into ecology and whatnot. Cryobiology is one such subcategory of cryogenics that most people don't even know exist. It is the study of extremely low temperatures on all living things. Nothing to it right? When frozen all living organisms die, case closed. Well, not exactly. Research into cryobiology has over turned some startling discoveries. Genetic material doesn't necessarily die when frozen. In fact, it usually doesn't.

First of all, there are a lot of organisms that can withstand temperatures below freezing. Most are able to do this because they create a natural cryoprotectant of their own and have natural defenses against the damage that being frozen does. For example, there are three different kinds of bacteria that have successfully revived themselves after being frozen for long periods of time. The freezing does cause injuries but doesn't kill the bacteria outright and leaves it able to heal back to full health over time.

Plants undergo the process of hardening where they relocate their carbohydrates to their roots and increase the permeability of their cell membrane in order to be able to survive for weeks and sometimes months on end in temperatures between negative five and negative ten degrees Celsius. Should temperatures drop even further, say around the negative twenty degrees Celsius level, then the plant's cell membranes are chemically altered to be able to withstand even lower levels of cold than before. But what about plants that live in the Tundra and even colder areas where temperatures reach negative fifty degrees and below? Those plants enter a third stage of hardening where they create their very own vitrification process.

Bacteria and plants aren't the only ones that can survive extreme cold. Many invertebrates beat the freeze through a natural process that will allow their body to be frozen but not their head. Once temperatures rise again the body is thawed out with little to no noticeable freeze damage. A few invertebrate creatures that can survive extremely low temperatures or even being frozen include the fungus gnat, cockroaches, nematodes, and the water bear.

Many vertebrates beat cold temperatures through the use of thick fur coats that insulate them during the winter months. However, many also have unique survival mechanisms of their own as well. The wood frog for example can survive with about half of its body frozen for eleven days. When it is frozen the frog's blood flow and heart beat actually cease to exist but once thawed back it can revive its systems all on its own. A number of reptiles are able to survive for long periods of time at freezing temperatures with ease. Arctic squirrels hibernate during the winter and experience body temperatures that drop below freezing but never actually get frozen. However, their head and neck remain just above freezing. Maybe keeping your head from freezing is the best way to go about cryogenically freezing people. Who knows where we'll be at in another fifty years.

There are six major areas of study within cryobiology that include the cold adaption techniques of microorganisms, animals, and plants, the cryopreservation of genetic materials in storage facilities like cord blood banks, the preservation of organs at low temperatures, the ability to freeze dry pharmaceuticals, cryosurgical techniques, and the physics behind super cooling biological systems. With such a wide range of study there is no telling what kind of inventions and new technologies may come about because of cryobiology. We could very well end up with a way to naturally beat the most extreme freezing temperatures the world has to offer with ease because someone studying cryobiology observed some rare animal's cold defenses and implemented it for human use.

About The Author: Robert O. Dewald has written this article.

Author's URL: https://www.familycord.com/


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