The Growing Demand for Cryopreservation Instrumentation in South Africa

The growing use of cryopreservation along with the demand for related instrumentation is clear proof that medicine is certainly an area in which South Africa has never lagged behind the remainder of the world. The pioneering efforts and ultimate success of Dr Christiaan Neethling Barnard in the field of human cardiac transplantation may have been the most widely publicised of our achievements in the field, but it is far from being the only such breakthrough to emerge from the southernmost nation on the African continent.

Today, both commercial and university laboratories in the various cities around the country are making use of cutting edge technologies to achieve advances in all manner of established and developing biomedical disciplines. These include gene therapy, tissue banking, stem cell transplantation and assisted reproduction to name just a few.  Wherever there may be a need to maintain live tissue samples, particularly for extended periods, there will also be an attendant need to protect these delicate materials from all risk of denaturation.

The most important factor to govern the survival or deterioration of live tissue samples is the temperature at which they are stored. Differing tissue may vary in terms of the precise cryopreservation conditions needed but monitoring and feedback control with appropriate instrumentation is able to ensure that these conditions will remain within the acceptable limits of variation for the length of time required.

At temperatures around -136° Celsius, biological activity slows very substantially reducing the risk of denaturisation by the naturally occurring enzymes found within the various tissues. However, the temperature of boiling nitrogen, -196° Celsius is that preferred for the more delicate or important specimens. The cooling process must be a slow and controlled one in order to avoid any damage that may arise from the formation of ice crystals within the cells of the live tissues. In addition, the use of a suitable cryoprotectant coating will often be necessary so as to provide further buffering against this potential threat to the continued viability of biological samples in cold storage.

When ready for use in some medical procedure for example, samples may often need to be transported over considerable distances between the storage facility and their ultimate destination and so these conditions may need to be maintained during the journey also. All of the specialist cryopreservation equipment, disposables and instrumentation relating to the storage and transport of biomedical materials are now available under one roof from IEPSA.

As the leading supplier of these items in South Africa, we have been operating in the region for in excess of three decades. During that time we have striven to source and import only the most dependable laboratory supplies from established manufacturers in continental Europe, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Based upon this policy we offer a selection of relevant items from three prestigious international sources.  

From Chart Bio-Medical Biological Systems in the US we source the latest ETERNE liquid nitrogen storage freezers for use in a wide variety of applications including oncology, gene therapy, tissue banking, and assisted reproduction.  Also from Chart we carry the Lab Series – a range of economical super insulated Dewar Flasks that are ideal for the storage and transport of the liquid nitrogen used for cryopreservation purposes. Instrumentation for monitoring the temperatures of multiple storage facilities and generating logs and alarm warnings as needed is supplied by Planer in the UK which is also the manufacturer of a range of advanced controlled rate cryo freezers. Planer is a company with more than forty years of experience in their field.

Completing the trio of manufacturers is a member of the French IMV Technologies Group – Cryo Bio Systems. Its portfolio includes products and systems for low temperature preservation of biomaterials and, in particular, of those associated with Assisted Reproduction Technology (ART) including sperm, oocytes, ovarian tissue and embryos. Their offering also includes facilities for small sample containment in the form of straws or ampoules and simplified sperm counting as well as the catheters used in both intrauterine and intracervical insemination procedures.

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