Environment : Replicating a natural antifreeze

About 50 years ago, scientists discovered that certain Antarctic fish contained types of proteins that enable creatures living in sub-zero environments to avoid freezing to death. Prof. Ido Braslavsky, one of the world’s top researchers in the field of cryopreservation, and colleagues from the Institute of Biochemistry, Food Science and Nutrition, have spent years studying these ice-binding proteins with an eye to understanding the mechanisms that underlie the freezing and thawing processes. Their research has shown that the antifreeze proteins irreversibly adhere to the ice, creating a buffer zone that prevents the ice from expanding and damaging the cells of the fish.

The implications of their ongoing research could have a dramatic impact on where and how food is grown, stored and transported and “could be a game changer in terms of food supply to under-farmed regions of the world,” Prof. Braslavsky says. Among their many applications, ice-binding proteins may allow the control of ice in frozen food and the development of new frozen food products.