Simulation of Air Travel-Related Irradiation Exposure of Cryopreserved Mouse Germplasm Samples

Biopreserv Biobank. 2021 Mar 1. doi: 10.1089/bio.2020.0046. Online ahead of print.


Cryopreservation of genetically modified mouse lines prevents the loss of specific mutants that are of enormous scientific value for both basic and applied research. Cryopreservation of spermatozoa or preimplantation embryos enables discontinuation of breeding as well as archiving of specific lines for future studies. Regarding active inter-laboratory exchange of mutants, cryopreserved material is more advantageous to transport than live animals. However, transportation stress should not be trivialized. Security scanning of transport boxes at airports and customs, in particular, as well as additional cosmic radiation, pose a threat to undefined dosages of irradiation exposure. To simulate this, cryopreserved samples of mouse spermatozoa and preimplantation embryos were exposed to an X-ray dosage of 1 mGy in an X-ray machine. For subsequent investigation of the cell integrity of irradiated spermatozoa and embryos, spermatozoa forward motility as well as embryo developmental capacity and apoptosis values were examined and compared with nonirradiated control samples. The percentage of forward-moving spermatozoa per sample appears to be significantly reduced after irradiation exposure. The in vitro developmental capacity of preimplantation embryos as well as their relative share of apoptotic cells do not seem to be influenced by irradiation exposure. This leads to the assumption that, at least in preimplantation embryos, X-ray dosages of 1 mGy do not induce sudden severe cellular harm. Nevertheless, stochastic effects of ionizing irradiation, such as mutations, do not have a dosage threshold and always represent the potential danger of alterations to cells and cellular components, especially the DNA. This could lead to undefined mutations inducing genetic drift, in the worst case to the loss of a mutant line. We therefore strongly recommend minimizing "transportation stress," in particular by irradiation exposure, to keep its potential consequences in mind, and to standardize shipping procedures.

Keywords: airport security scanning; cryopreservation; genetic drift; genetically modified (GM) mice; low-dose irradiation exposure; shipment.