A number of studies on the cryopreservation of precision-cut liver slices using various techniques have been reported. However, the identification of important factors that determine cell viability following cryopreservation is difficult because of large differences between the various methods published. The aim of this study was to evaluate some important factors in the freezing process in an effort to find an optimized approach to the cryopreservation of precision-cut liver slices. A comparative study of a slow and a fast freezing technique was carried out to establish any differences in tissue viability for a number of endpoints. Both freezing techniques aim at the prevention of intracellular ice formation, which is thought to be the main cause of cell death after cryopreservation. Subsequently, critical variables in the freezing process were studied more closely in order to explain the differences in viability found in the two methods in the first study. For this purpose, a full factorial experimental design was used with 16 experimental groups, allowing a number of variables to be studied at different levels in one single experiment. It is demonstrated that ATP and K content and histomorphology are sensitive parameters for evaluating slice viability after cryopreservation. Subsequently, it is shown that freezing rate and the cryopreservation medium largely determine the residual viability of liver slices after cryopreservation and subsequent culturing. It is concluded that a cryopreservation protocol with a fast freezing step and using William's Medium E as cryopreservation medium was the most promising approach to successful freezing of rat liver slices of those tested in this study.
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