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Rapidly cooled horse spermatozoa: Loss of viability is due to osmotic imbalance during thawing, not intracellular ice formation

Morris, G.J., Faszer, K., Green, J.E., Draper, D., Grout, B.W.W., Fonseca, F.
Theriogenology 2007 v.68 no.5 pp. 804-812
horses, stallions, semen, cryopreservation, cooling, rapid methods, thawing, osmotic pressure, ice nucleation, cold injury, spermatozoa, viability, ultrastructure
The cellular damage that spermatozoa encounter at rapid rates of cooling has often been attributed to the formation of intracellular ice. However, no direct evidence of intracellular ice has been presented. An alternative mechanism has been proposed by Morris (2006) that cell damage is a result of an osmotic imbalance encountered during thawing. This paper examines whether intracellular ice forms during rapid cooling or if an alternative mechanism is present. Horse spermatozoa were cooled at a range of cooling rates from 0.3 to 3000 °C/min in the presence of a cryoprotectant. The ultrastructure of the samples was examined by Cryo Scanning Electron Microscopy (CryoSEM) and freeze substitution, to determine whether intracellular ice formed and to examine alternative mechanisms of cell injury during rapid cooling. No intracellular ice formation was detected at any cooling rate. Differential scanning Calorimetry (DSC) was employed to examine the amount of ice formed at different rate of cooling. It is concluded that cell damage to horse spermatozoa, at cooling rates of up to 3000 °C/min, is not caused by intracellular ice formation. Spermatozoa that have been cooled at high rates are subjected to an osmotic shock when they are thawed.