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Natural antifreeze yields secrets

have previously shown that they can be used to preserve platelets, a vital component in blood, for up to 21 days in refrigeration. Currently, blood banks can only store platelets at room temperature and must discard them after five days.

Understanding how the antifreeze proteins interact with ice is also helping Yeh and colleagues from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory understand biomineralization: how living tissues form hard, crystalline material such as sea shells, bone and tooth enamel.

Crystals such as ice grow along a most-favored direction, Yeh said. Ice, for example, favors growing along a flat plate: that's how snowflakes form. Antifreeze proteins stop ice from growing along the most-favored direction and change the growth pattern of the crystal. In the same way, living organisms use proteins to direct how crystals grow into hard structures such as shells, bone or tooth enamel.

Biomineralization is not always positive. Deposits of different types of crystals contribute to kidney stones, gout and the arterial plaques that cause heart disease. By understanding how antifreeze proteins affect ice crystals, scientists may learn more about how to treat or prevent these diseases.


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Contact: Andy Fell
ahfell@ucdavis.edu
530-752-4533
University of California - Davis
15-Mar-2002


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