Tissues from products of conception were examined to determine the feasibility of obtaining viable neural tissue after suction abortion at 9-12 weeks of gestation. The ventral mesencephalon, a prototype region whose maturation can be monitored and which is a potential tissue for transplantation, was identified in 32 of 120 cases. The tissue was then screened for the presence of infectious agents, while being held at -196 degrees C in cryopreservative solutions. Three of 32 specimens were found to be contaminated by normal vaginal bacteria; all other viral, fungal, and mycoplasma testing was negative. Thawed brain fragments retained high viability after storage in liquid nitrogen and when grown in vitro exhibited neuronal morphology, tyrosine hydroxylase immunoreactivity, and dopamine production. We have demonstrated that human fetal brain tissue can be cryopreserved in a manner which not only retains viability but allows normal phenotypic differentiation after thawing.