Biomedical Microdevices

, Volume 12, Issue 1, pp 89–96 | Cite as

Preferential vitrification of water in small alginate microcapsules significantly augments cell cryopreservation by vitrification

  • Wujie Zhang
  • Geer Yang
  • Aili Zhang
  • Lisa X. Xu
  • Xiaoming He


The morphological changes of small (~100 µm) alginate microcapsules and the biophysical alterations of water in the microcapsules during cryopreservation were studied using cryomicroscopy and scanning calorimetry. It was found that water in the small microcapsules can be preferentially vitrified over water in the bulk solution in the presence of 10% (v/v) or more dimethylsulfoxide (DMSO, a cryoprotectant), which resulted in an intact morphology of the microcapsules post cryopreservation with a cooling rate of 100°C/min. A small amount of Ca2+ (up to 0.15 M) was also found to help maintain the microcapsule integrity during cryopreservation, which is attributed to the enhancement of the alginate matrix strength by Ca2+ rather than promoting vitrification of water in the microcapsules. The preferential vitrification of water in small microcapsules was further found to significantly augment cell cryopreservation by vitrification at a low concentration of cryoprotectants (i.e., 10% (v/v)) using a small quartz microcapillary (400 µm in diameter). Therefore, the small alginate microcapsule could be a great system for protecting living cells that are highly sensitive to stresses due to freezing (i.e., ice formation) and high concentration of cryoprotectants from injury during cryopreservation.


Microcapsule Alginate Cryopreservation Vitrification Calorimetry Cryomicroscopy 



This work was partially supported by a startup fund from the USC Research Foundation (provided through NSF grant # EPS-0447660) and by the Chinese Ministry of Education for a joint doctoral training program.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Wujie Zhang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Geer Yang
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Aili Zhang
    • 3
  • Lisa X. Xu
    • 3
  • Xiaoming He
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Mechanical EngineeringUniversity of South CarolinaColumbiaUSA
  2. 2.Biomedical Engineering ProgramUniversity of South CarolinaColumbiaUSA
  3. 3.Department of Biomedical EngineeringShanghai Jiao Tong UniversityShanghaiChina

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