Thermal expansion data are essential for analyses of cryodestruction associated with thermal stresses during cryopreservation protocols as well as during cryosurgery. The present study tests a commonly used hypothesis that the thermal expansion of frozen tissues is similar to that of pure water ice crystals. This study further provides insight into the potential effect of the presence of cryoprotectants on thermal expansion. A new apparatus for thermal strain measurements of frozen biological tissues within a cryogenic temperature range is presented. Results are presented for fresh tissue samples taken from beef muscle, chicken muscle, rabbit muscle, rabbit bone, and pig liver. Pilot studies of the effect of cryoprotectants on thermal expansion are further presented for rabbit muscle immersed in dimethyl sulphoxide (2 mols/l) and glycerol (2 mols/l), and for pig liver perfused with dimethyl sulphoxide (2 mols/l). Thermal expansion of frozen soft biological tissues was found to be similar to that of water ice crystals in the absence of cryoprotectant. Thermal expansion of the rabbit bone was found to be about one half of that of frozen soft tissues. A significant reduction in the thermal expansion at higher temperatures was observed in the presence of cryoprotectants. A rapid change of thermal strain near -100 degrees C was also observed, which is likely to be associated with the glass transition process of the cryoprotectant solutions.