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Theriogenology. 2007 Jan 1;67(1):64-72. Epub 2006 Oct 17.

Analysis of oocyte physiology to improve cryopreservation procedures.

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  • 1Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine, Englewood, CO 80113, USA.


In contrast to the preimplantation mammalian embryo, it has been notoriously difficult to cryopreserve the metaphase II oocyte. The ability to store oocytes successfully at -196 degrees C has numerous practical and financial advantages, together with ethical considerations, and will positively impact animal breeding programs and assisted conception in the human. Differences in membrane permeability and in physiology are two main reasons why successful oocyte cryopreservation has remained elusive. It is proposed, therefore, that rather than relying on technologies already established for the preimplantation embryo, the development of cryopreservation techniques suitable for the mammalian oocyte needs to take into account the idiosyncratic physiology of this cell. Analysis of intracellular calcium, for example, has revealed that exposure to conventional permeating cryoprotectants, such as propanediol, ethylene glycol and DMSO, all independently result in an increase in calcium, which in turn has the potential to initiate oocyte activation, culminating in zona hardening. Quantification of the metabolome and proteome of the oocyte has revealed that whereas slow freezing has a dramatic effect on cell physiology, vitrification appears to have limited effect. This is plausibly achieved by the limited exposure to cryoprotectants. Analysis of meiotic spindle dynamics and embryo development following IVF, also indicate that vitrification is less traumatic than slow freezing, and therefore has the greatest potential for successful oocyte cryopreservation.

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