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Ashley Yeager
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Ice crystals form along cells' seamlike structures

Detailed view of ice forming in cells could lead to better tissue preservation

At extremely low temperatures, ice (illustrated in light blue) can penetrate nanoscale openings in the seals of cell membranes (blue circles), causing the tissue to freeze.

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Slow-motion video showing how cells freeze may help scientists preserve tissue without damaging it.

Ice is more likely to form in tissue cells that are frozen together than in cells chilled individually. By watching cells freeze under a cryomicroscope, researchers were able to determine that ice crystals spread along seamlike structures that weave together neighboring cell membranes in tissue. The seams normally seal cells to keep ice out. But at low temperatures, ice crystals can poke through nanoscale openings in the seams, causing the water within the cells to freeze.

The results, which appear November 5 in the Biophysical Journal, could lead to better ways to store tissue for medical care and research.

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