New antifreeze protects airplanes and allografts

By Paul Basilio, MDLinx
Published August 16, 2017

Key Takeaways

If you have to deliver an organ for transplantation by airplane in the middle of winter, then you’re in luck, according to findings published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

Researchers from the Department of Chemistry and Warwick Medical School in the UK have developed a new synthetic antifreeze that may find applications ranging from de-icing airplane wings, making ice cream smoother, and improving the viability of frozen human tissue.

The scientists took inspiration from naturally occurring antifreeze proteins (AFPs) to develop iron-based synthetic imitations that have been shown to slow to growth of ice crystals. They suggest the antifreeze properties are a result of the iron complex containing separated regions of hydrophobic and hydrophilic characteristics that mimic the AFPs.

AFPs exist naturally in a variety of animals that live in the most extreme environments on earth. Arctic fish can use AFPs to stop their blood from freezing in sub-zero conditions.

The ability to prevent the growth of ice crystals could be of huge technological importance in many industries, including medicine.

“Some of these were found to be very potent at stopping ice from growing,” said lead researcher Matthew Gibson, PhD, a Professor at Warwick. “It’s a rare property normally only associated with antifreeze proteins. The versatile synthetic and adaptable nature of these compounds will let us fine-tune the structure to both understand the ice/water interface and develop new inhibitors for (bio)technological applications.”

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