A numerical study on distributions during cryoprotectant loading caused by laminar flow in a microchannel

T. Scherr, S. Pursley, W. T. Monroe, K. Nandakumar*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


In this work, we conduct a computational study on the loading of cryoprotective agents into cells in preparation for cryopreservation. The advantages of microfluidics in cryopreserving cells include control of fluid flow parameters for reliable cryoprotectant loading and reproducible streamlined processing of samples. A 0.25 m long, three inlet T-junction microchannel serves as an idealized environment for this process. The flow field and concentration distribution are determined from a computational fluid dynamics study and cells are tracked as inert particles in a Lagrangian frame. These particles are not confined to streamlines but can migrate laterally due to the Segre-Sildeberg effect for particles in a shear flow. During this tracking, the local concentration field surrounding the cell is monitored. This data are used as input into the Kedem-Katchalsky equations to numerically study passive solute transport across the cell membrane. As a result of the laminar flow, each cell has a unique pathline in the flow field resulting in different residence times and a unique external concentration field along its path. However, in most previous studies, the effect of a spatially varying concentration field on the transport across the cell membrane is ignored. The dynamics of this process are investigated for a population of cells released from the inlet. Using dimensional analysis, we find a governing parameter α, which is the ratio of the time scale for membrane transport to the average residence time in the channel. For α<=0.224, cryoprotectant loading is completed to within 5% of the target concentration for all of the cells. However, for α>0.224, we find the population of cells does not achieve complete loading and there is a distribution of intracellular cryoprotective agent concentration amongst the population. Further increasing α beyond a value of 2 leads to negligible cryoprotectant loading. These simulations on populations of cells may lead to improved microfluidic cryopreservation protocols where more consistent cryoprotective agent loading and freezing can be achieved, thus increasing cell survival.

Original languageEnglish
Article number024104
Issue number2
StatePublished - 5 Apr 2013
Externally publishedYes


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