Allison Hubel

University of Minnesota
United States

Allison joined the Society for Cryobiology in 1985 and was elected to Fellow in 2022.

Current methods of developing protocols are expensive and time consuming and focus on the use of dimethyl sulfoxide, a cryoprotective agent that is toxic to cells and humans and whose use results in epigenetic alterations. Plants, insects, and other organisms use a combination of osmolytes to protect themselves against environmental extremes (temperature, dehydration, and high salt environments). I have adapted this approach to the preservation of mammalian cells used therapeutically. Low concentrations of naturally occurring molecules such as sugars, sugar alcohols and amino acids have been shown to preserve cells with high viability and functionality. The use of multicomponent osmolyte solutions to preserve cells required the development of a computational algorithm designed to drive optimization of the cooling rate and composition with the minimal number of experiments. This technology platform is broadly applicable to the development of fit-for-purpose preservation protocols for molecules, cells, and tissues.

Much of our understanding of damage during freezing is based on light microscopic examinations of cells during freezing. I pioneered the use of Raman spectroscopy to understand with high spatial resolution and with chemical specificity of the freezing environment around the cell during freezing and importantly the cell response to the freezing environment. For the first time, this work has allowed us to identify ice formation inside of cells during freezing based on chemical spectra. These measurements demonstrated that ice inside of cells is quite common during freezing but only if it reaches a threshold value, does it become a damaging event. Other studies have enabled us to elucidate mechanisms of cryoprotection for osmolytes and other molecules used to stabilize cells during freezing. It has also helped us understand the role of both the cell membrane and the cytoskeleton in freezing damage. I have continued to analyse images obtained during freezing for additional signals present.  A recent publication from my lab quantifies the partitioning of cryoprotective agents during freezing. Developing an understanding of both the mechanisms of protection for certain molecules as well as sites of damage is critical to the rational development of new preservation protocols as well as the identification of new molecules capable of stabilizing cells that currently respond poorly to conventional cryopreservation methodologies.

Services to the Society
Board of Governors (2002-2008)
Membership Committee (Chair, 2002)
Program Committee (Member and Chair, 2004-2006, 2019)
SFC Annual Meeting (Co-Chair, 2005)
President-elect (2023)

Scientific 'Offspring'
Katie Glass (nee Fleming): Proctor and Gamble; Cincinnati, OH.
Katie Pollock: Bristol Meyer Squibb
Guanglin Yu: Novartis
Rui Li: West Pharma
Chia-Hsing Pi: Vertex Pharmaceuticals

Social Media Accounts
LinkedIn - Allison Hubel