What’s in the Image You Receive

The image attached to your viability report is a picture of your hair follicle! This image is used as part of our viability assessment and taken using a powerful confocal microscope.

The colours you see are known as ‘staining.’ We use multiple dyes that bind to your cells and fluoresce or create light if they attach to the proper structure.

The blue that you see is a dye that binds to the DNA of each cell. We measure the amount of blue light using our microscopes and their computers to tell us how many cells are on your follicle.

The green that you see indicates which cells are live cells. The green dye will only fluoresce if it binds to a product produced by working enzymes in live cells. Our microscope’s computer again analyzes how many cells produce green light and tells us how many live cells are in your follicle.


What Are Our Viability Requirements?

Number of Follicles

The hair follicle count is the number of follicles that we have successfully banked for you with intact root sheaths (see image below). An intact root sheath is found on anagen phase hair follicles. It is identified by a continuous white covering of the hair underneath. Intact root sheaths let us know which follicles are likely to contain the most living cells.

Hair follicle with and without intact root sheath
Above are examples of good and bad follicles. The good follicle has a solid, intact root sheath. The bad follicle has a broken, inconsistent root sheath.

We recommend having between 25 and 55 collected intact follicles. 5 of these follicles are used for analysis, leaving you with 20-50 banked follicles for future use.

Number of Live Cells

Each hair follicle has between 2000-5000 cells. Your follicle also has a percentage of living and dead cells.

The number of live cells in your report is an estimate of the total number of living cells that you have banked. This estimate is based on the average total living cell count of the cells we analyzed.

Our strict protocols ensure that we don’t store any follicles with less living cells than our experimentally determined cut-off point. We base this point on the number of living cells needed for successful outgrowth. Our outgrowth techniques allow us to outgrow each follicle's live cells into millions of other cells for use in treatments.

Number of Redundant Storage Tanks

Your cells stored in multiple vials in at least 2 different cryogenic storage tanks. This provides extra protection in the rare event of a cryogenic tank malfunction.

Our storage tanks are currently located in the Toronto General Hospital. The hospital itself is on a separate power grid with multiple backup generators to ensure that loss of power is an improbable event. Loss of power to the cryogenic freezers where your cells are stored is very unlikely.

Finally, because your cells are held in tanks containing liquid nitrogen, the temperature would remain constant for long enough for your cells to be transferred to a working tank upon power loss.

Cryogenic Storage Temperature

Samples are cryogenically [-180℃ to -196℃] stored in what’s known as vapour-phase liquid nitrogen (LN²). This temperature stops the biological clock of your sample, so they remain the age at which you froze them. Samples are frozen at a slow rate of 1℃ per minute. The slow rate and added cryoprotectants, special substances added to the freezing solution, minimize damage to the cells during the freezing. Once cells have acclimated to low temperatures, they are transferred to our storage tanks that allow samples to maintain a constant cryogenic temperature of down to -196℃.