Allison Hubel, PhD

Portrait of Allison Hubel

Allison Hubel, PhD

Director, Honeywell/H.W. Sweatt Chair in Technological Leadership, Technological Leadership Institute

Education

1989 - Ph.D., Mechanical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
1985 - M.S., Mechanical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
1983 - B.S., Mechanical Engineering, Iowa State University

Biography

Dr. Hubel is a professor in mechanical engineering at the University of Minnesota. Dr. Hubel has studied both basic science and translational issues behind preservation. She pioneered the use of low-temperature Raman Spectroscopy to understand mechanisms of damage and protection during freezing. Inspired by the manner by which trees survive Minnesota winters, Hubel developed methods of preserving cells using combinations of naturally-occurring molecules. Her work on the development of these new methods of preserving cells has led to the formation of a startup company, BlueCubBio, a 2020 MN Cup Winner. Hubel is a founder and Chief Science Officer of BlueCube Bio. As Co-PI of the U of MN REACH Proof-of-Concept hub (MN-REACH) at the U of MN, Hubel was involved in the development of a skills development program that linked the local I-Corps program with the efforts of the REACH hub. Dr. Hubel has published numerous scientific articles in the field of preservation and she is the author of “Preservation of Cells: A Practical Manual,” published in 2018.

Alternate Job Roles
Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering

Curriculum Vitae

Research Interests

Dr. Hubel has been involved in countless research projects in the areas of medicine and life sciences, chemical compounds, and engineering and material science. You can learn much more about her research on Dr. Hubel's Experts@Minnesota profile. 

Expertise
Current methods of developing protocols are expensive and time-consuming and focus on the use of dimethyl sulfoxide, a cryoprotective agent that is toxic to cells and humans and whose use results in epigenetic alterations. Plants, insects and other organisms use a combination of osmolytes to protect themselves against environmental extremes (temperature, dehydration and high salt environments). Hubel has adapted this approach to the preservation of mammalian cells used therapeutically. Low concentrations of naturally-occurring molecules such as sugars, sugar alcohols and amino acids have been shown to preserve cells with high viability and functionality. The use of multicomponent osmolyte solutions to preserve cells required the development of a computational algorithm designed to drive optimization of the cooling rate and composition with the minimal number of experiments. This technology platform is broadly applicable to the development of fit-for-purpose preservation protocols for molecules, cells and tissues.

Much of our understanding of damage during freezing is based on light microscopic examinations of cells during freezing. Hubel and her collaborators used Raman spectroscopy to understand with high spatial resolution and with chemical specificity the freezing environment around the cell during freezing and importantly the cell response to the freezing environment. This work has allowed researchers, for the first time, to identify ice formation inside of cells during freezing based on chemical spectra. These measurements demonstrated that ice inside of cells is actually quite common during freezing but only if it reaches a threshold value does it become a damaging event. Other studies have enabled researchers to elucidate mechanisms of cryoprotection for osmolytes and other molecules used to stabilize cells during freezing. It has also helped them understand the role of both the cell membrane and the cytoskeleton in freezing damage. Developing an understanding of both the mechanisms of protection for certain molecules as well as sites of damage is critical to the rational development of new preservation protocols as well as the identification of new molecules capable of stabilizing cells that currently respond poorly to conventional cryopreservation methodologies.

Programs
M.S. in Medical Device Innovation

Honors and Awards

  • 2017 - Outstanding Achievement in Biobanking, ISBER
  • 2013 - Scholar, National Blood Foundation
  • 2012 - Fellow, American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineers
  • 2008 - Fellow, American Society of Mechanical Engineers
  • 2001 - Presidential Distinguished Faculty Mentor

Books

Hubel A., Preservation of Cells: A Practical Manual. John Wiley, New York, 2018. 

Recent Book Chapters

  • Yu G., Li R., Hubel A. (2021) Raman Cryomicroscopic Imaging and Sample Holder for Spectroscopic Subzero Temperature Measurements. In: Wolkers W., Oldenhof H. (eds) Cryopreservation and Freeze-Drying Protocols. Methods in Molecular Biology, vol 2180. Humana, New York, NY. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-0716-0783-1_14
  • Hubel A, and Skubitz A.P.N, (2017), “Principals of cryopreservation,” In: P. Hainaut, J. Vaught, M. Pasterk, and K. Zatloukal (eds). Biobanking of human biospecimens:  principals and practices (1-21). New York: Springer.
  • Hubel A, and Mathew A,(2016) “Cryopreservation of cells used therapeutically,” In: K. Loper and E. Areman (eds). Cellular Therapy: Principles, Methods and Regulations (444-452) Bethesda, MD: AABB Press.

Recent Archival Journal Articles

  • Hornberger K, Li R, Duarte ARC, Hubel A, “Natural Deep Eutectic systems for nature-inspired preservation of cells”, AICHE J, DOI: 10.1002/aic.17085.
  • Pi CH*, Hornberger K*, Dosa PI, Hubel A, “Understanding the freezing responses of T-cells and other subsets of human peripheral blood mononuclear cells using DSMO-free cryoprotectants, Cytotherapy, 22(5): 291-300, 2020.
  • Li R, Hornberger K, Dutton JR, Hubel A, “Cryopreservation of human iPS cell aggregates in a DMSO-free solution-an optimization and comparative study”, Frontiers in Biotechnology, DOI: 10.3389/fbioe.2020.00001.
  • Pi CH, Dosa PI, Hubel A, “Differential evolution for the optimization of the DMSO-free cryoprotectants:  influences of control parameters, J Biomech Engr, 142 (7):  071006.
  • Li R, Johnson R, Yu G, McKenna DH, Hubel A, “Preservation of cell-based immunotherapies for clinical trials”, Cytotherapy, 21(9): 943-957, 2019.
  • Yu G, and Hubel A, “The role of preservation in the variability of regenerative medicine products”, Regen Engr and Trans Med, doi.org/10.1007/s40883-019-00110-9
  • Hornberger K, Yu G, McKenna DH, Hubel A, “Cryopreservation of hematopoietic stem cells:  emerging cryoprotectants, and technology to improve outcome”, Transfusion Med Hemotherapy, 4(3): p. 188-196, 2019.

For a complete list of publications, visit Dr. Hubel's scholar page