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Infertility Solutions' Cryolaboratory

Our laboratory can cryopreserve and store many types of tissue to enable patients to optimize their chance of getting pregnant. We use both a programmed slow freeze method as well as vitirification.

Sperm


Infertility Solutions cryobank provides freezing and storage of sperm for men who require chemotherapy or radiotherapy with the potential for causing their sterility. Frozen sperm can be used to achieve pregnancy after the man has recovered from his underlying disease. Most commonly we freeze sperm from men with Hodgkin's disease and with testicular cancer. Some men also choose to cryopreserve their sperm prior to having a vasectomy. Not all sperm will survive a freeze. Freezing also effects sperm membranes so that they are activated and ready to fertilize as soon as they are defrosted. Most normal fertile men will have enough sperm that the proportion that survives a defrost will be adequate for achieving pregnancy (usually using IUI). Men with Hodgkin's disease of testicular cancer will often have poor quality sperm at the time of their diagnosis. Defrosted sperm from such men can still achieve pregnancy, but will usually require ICSI.

Embryos

Embryos can also be frozen and stored for patients who produce excess embryos with in vitro fertilization at Infertility Solutions. Cryopreservation of embryos can decrease the cost of achieving pregnancy by providing several tries at pregnancy from a single IVF cycle. It can also help decrease the risk of high order multiple pregnancies. We usually freeze embryos after 5 or 6 days of culture when they have become blastocysts. Freezing does take a toll on embryos and not all cells will survive the freeze. However, since blastocyst have a large number of cells (40-80) and the cells of such early embryos have not fully differentiated yet, even blastocysts that have lost some cells have potential to become a normal baby.

We use two techniques for freezing embryos. The first is similar to what we do for sperm and is referred to as a slow or programmed freeze. A key issue for success with this method is avoiding ice formation within the cell. Since ice expands, it can damage the cell. The process of freezing involves dehydrating the cell and replacing water with chemical cyroprotectants. The embryo is frozen very slowly using a programed liquid nitrogen freezer. This is a very established technology.

Recently, we have begun freezing embryos using a technology called vitrification. It is a technique of ultrarapid freezing so that water doesn't become normal ice, but moves into a glass-like state. We feel that vitrification is gentler to the embryos than older techniques. With vitrification, one can take animal embryos, vitrfy and defrost several times and still have embryos that are able to develop. One can't do this with slow frozen embryos.

Eggs

Egg freezing is still viewed as an experimental procedure although at this point in time most of the technical problems appear to have been worked out. Eggs are harder to freeze well than embryos in that the eggs contain a delicate structure that connects the chromosomes called a spindle. If the spindle gets damaged, the eggs will contain the wrong number of chromosomes after fertilization and won't become a baby. The major advances to enable egg freezing were vitrification and a culture media designed for egg freezing. There have been at least several babies born with eggs frozen using these techniques. The procedure is viewed as experimental primarily because so few babies have presently been born.

Egg freezing is likely to be important for women who decide to delay child bearing. They can freeze their eggs (after undergoing an IVF ovulation induction and egg retrieval) and use them later in life. Unmarried women needing egg toxic chemotherapy will also benefit from this technique.

Storage of other tissues

We also store donor sperm that has been purchased from commercial sperm banks. Primarily this serves to simplify our donor insemination program for our patients. However, some of our patients will also buy additional specimens from a donor used to achieve pregnancy so that they can utilize the same donor to achieve additional pregnancies.

Testicular biopsy specimens can also be stored and used to fertilize eggs of a partner in the situation where a man does not produce sperm in his ejaculate. This is a component of our TESE program.

Cryopreserved sperm, embryos and tissue can be stored virtually forever. Specimens are stored in liquid nitrogen at a temperature (-196C) below that required for chemical reactions to take place.