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The popularity of vitrification (literally, glass formation) as a method of cryopreservation for reproductive cells, tissues, and even organs is evident from the rising number of citations of these applications in PubMed (Figure 6.1). The success of vitrification is based on the remarkable fact that it has been possible in many cases to reconcile the extreme physical and chemical requirements of vitrification with the biological requirements for sustaining life. Essentially, the same basic physical process that produces obsidian, window panes, porcelain vases, amber, and lollipops can be applied to living cells and tissues to preserve them in a viable state for very long periods.
The basic biological feasibility of vitrification was first discovered by nature. It now appears that many “poikilohydric” animals (whose water content depends on the ambient humidity) seem to survive the winter at deep subzero temperatures in the vitreous or partially vitreous state, and this strategy of survival may be even more prevalent than freeze tolerance [1, 2]. In addition, there are complex organisms that can dry to a vitreous state and survive even at temperatures well above zero [3, 4]. Therefore, cryopreservation by vitrification is supported by a broad base of biological evidence and evolutionary experience.
The science of histopathology revealed that like normal tissues, tumors are composed of cells. During development and in physiological contexts, proliferation is regulated by exposure of cells to soluble growth factors within their environment. Cells use a number of distinct signaling pathways to control their proliferation. A cell's decision to divide or to become quiescent is influenced by mitogenic signals in the cell's surroundings. In rapidly dividing tissues, parenchymal cells are born from asymmetric division of a stem/progenitor cell, differentiate and then undergo programmed cell death. Intact DNA damage repair systems are critical to maintain genomic stability and prevent tumorigenesis. Inactivation of the apoptotic machinery permits the survival of cells with accumulatingmutations and promotes evolution of premalignant to malignant cells. Failure in the ability of the immune system to distinguish self from non-self can result in autoimmune reactions or facilitate the development of a tumor.