A new concept in cryopreservation solution design was developed that focuses on the use of an intracellular-type, hypothermic maintenance medium coupled with additives that inhibit cryopreservation-induced apoptosis. HypoThermosol' (HTS), a hypothermic (4 degrees C) maintenance medium utilized in the long-term storage of cell, tissue, and organ systems, was tested for cryoprotective capability on a renal cell line (Madin-Darby Canine Kidney cells). HTS and HTS derivatives were tested against conventional cell culture medium (Dulbecco's Minimal Essential medium, DME) as the cryoprotectant carrier solution because (1) cells are exposed to an extended state of hypothermia during the freeze-thaw process, and (2) HTS is designed to protect cells exposed to a hypothermic state. Cells separately cryopreserved in either HTS or DME + 5% dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) yielded equivalent 24-h postthaw survival (approximately 30%) and 5-d recovery (approximately 90%). Cells cryopreserved in CryoStor CS 5, a HTS derivative containing 5% DMSO, yielded approximately 75% 24-h postthaw survival and recovery to 100% within 3 d. DNA gel electrophoresis was performed to determine the mechanisms of cell death contributing to cryopreservation failure. Cells preserved in DME (DMSO-free) died primarily through necrosis, whereas cells preserved in either DME + 5% DMSO, HTS, or CryoStor CS 5 died through a combination of apoptosis and necrosis. This observation led to the inclusion of an apoptotic inhibitor designed to improve cryopreservation outcome. MDCK cells cryopreserved in CryoStor CS 5 supplemented with an apoptotic inhibitor (Caspase I Inhibitor V), hereafter termed CryoStor CS 5N, resulted in a 24-h postthaw survival and recovery rate exceeding that of any other cryoprotective solution tested (85%). We conclude that: (1) the use of HTS (a dextran-based, intracellular-type solution) without DMSO can yield postthaw viability equivalent to that of standard DMSO-based cryopreservation methods, (2) postthaw viability can be significantly increased through the use of an intracellular-type solution in conjunction with DMSO, (3) the use of HTS allows for cryopreservation to be accomplished with reduced levels of cryoprotectants, and (4) the regulation of apoptosis is essential for the improvement of cryopreservation outcome.