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Fertil Steril. 2011 Aug;96(2):264-8. doi: 10.1016/j.fertnstert.2011.06.029. Epub 2011 Jun 30.

Cryopreservation: a cold look at technology for fertility preservation.

Author information

1
roger.gosden@gmail.com

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

To outline the history of cryopreservation technology and its contributions to reproductive medicine, including fertility preservation.

DESIGN:

A search of the relevant literature using Medline and other online tools.

SETTING:

Research and laboratory protocol development.

RESULT(S):

The biology of preserving cells at low temperatures is complex and still being unraveled. Principles were first established more than half a century ago, with progress being driven empirically and often by trial and error. The protocols vary widely, and practice is still heavily dependent on operator skill, accounting for wide differences in the success rates between centers. No single protocol fits all specimen types, and differential vulnerability to cryoinjury remains a major obstacle. Nevertheless, semen cryopreservation has long been established, embryo banking is now highly effective, and vitrification appears to overcome problems with oocytes. Protocols in the future, although specific to the cell type and tissue, are likely to evolve toward generally acknowledged standards. But heterogeneity between patients and even within samples implies that each cell may have its own peculiar optimum for minimizing cryoinjury; because protocols are therefore compromises, "perfect" preservation may be unattainable.

CONCLUSION(S):

Cryopreservation has become a mainstay in the assisted reproduction laboratory and underpins fertility preservation for patients with cancer and other conditions. The practice is currently evolving from slow freezing methods toward more vitrification, and future technology is likely to reduce dependence on operator skill, which should raise success rates to higher, more uniform levels.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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