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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans survives subfreezing temperatures in an isochoric system.

  • Author(s): Mikus, Hannah
  • Miller, Alexander
  • Nastase, Gabriel
  • Serban, Alexandru
  • Shapira, Michael
  • Rubinsky, Boris
  • et al.

This study is the first experimental evidence showing that a living multicellular organism, the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, can survive subfreezing temperatures in an isochoric (constant volume) thermodynamic system, while immersed in a simple isotonic solution, without the addition of cryoprotectants. Some of the test conditions were more extreme than those found at the ice/water interface of the Antarctic subglacial Vostok lake. On earth, life takes place in an isobaric (constant pressure) environment. In isobaric systems, subfreezing temperature survival of organisms in nature and subfreezing temperature preservation of living material for biotechnology and medicine, is made possible by use of cryoprotective chemicals additives. Our theoretical thermodynamic studies suggested that in an isochoric system, living biological material could survive subfreezing temperatures, without any cryoprotective chemicals. By confirming the theoretical predictions, this paper suggests a new technology for subfreezing preservation of cells, organs and organisms of possible value for biotechnology and medicine as well as new possible mechanisms of living organism survival in nature.

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