Historical Aspects

The earliest English language reference to cryopreserving parathyroid tissue that we have been able to establish is by Blumenthal and Walsh in 1950.1 Their study was designed to evaluate the histologic appearance of previously frozen thyroid autotransplants in guinea pigs. They compared auto-transplants with and without thyrotropin and preservation at -70°C with preservation at -190°C. They concluded that the lower temperature better preserved thyroid architecture. In a single preparation, however, a parathyroid gland previously maintained at -70°C appeared "well preserved" and "similar to a parathyroid observed in a control autotransplant." The study did not include functional analysis of the frozen thyroid or parathyroid tissue.

To facilitate studies of the emerging science of cryobiol-ogy, Russel and colleagues2 investigated technical aspects of cryopreserving tissue. They recognized the need for a functional assessment of success and used parathyroid tissue because they could measure reversal of hypocalcemia in parathyroidectomized rats. They emphasized the value both of using glycerol as a cryoprotectant and of a slow, -l°C/min freezing rate. Their work was repeated by Huggins and Abo,3 who emphasized the importance of removing the cryoprotectant after thawing and before reimplantation.

The "modern" era of clinically applicable parathyroid cryopreservation was ushered in by Wells and Christiansen.4 They were able to demonstrate in rats that parathyroid tissue frozen at -l°C/min in autologous serum and dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) as a cryoprotectant could function as assessed by restoration of normocalcemia and return of hypocalcemia on removal of the transplant.

For a more complete discussion of other investigators' contributions to the history of developing clinically useful parathyroid cryopreservation, the reader is referred to reviews by Saxe5 and Niederle and colleagues.6

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