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Cryobiology. 2012 Oct;65(2):79-87. doi: 10.1016/j.cryobiol.2012.06.001. Epub 2012 Jun 9.

Is it best to cryopreserve human cumulus-free immature oocytes before or after in vitro maturation?

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Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Biology, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


Freezing unfertilized oocytes is an option for females without a partner, either to preserve their fertility prior to sterilizing cancer treatment or for social reasons. Our study considered whether it is best to freeze immature human oocytes at the germinal vesicle (GV) stage, prior to in vitro maturation (IVM) or at metaphase-II (M-II), after IVM. Sibling GV-stage oocytes from stimulated ICSI cycles were allocated to freezing either prior to (n=109) or after (n=107) IVM. Cumulus-free oocytes were cryopreserved using a choline-substituted slow-freezing protocol and matured in a defined medium, with analysis of chromatin, microtubules, and microfilaments by three-dimensional imaging. Cryopreserved oocytes were compared with oocytes matured in vitro but never frozen (n=114). Survival was similar between oocytes frozen before or after IVM (69.7% vs. 70.5%). Polar body extrusion after IVM was lower in oocytes frozen at the GV stage versus those matured and then frozen (51.3% vs. 75.7%) or not frozen (75.4%). Stratification by patient age (<36 and ⩾36year) showed no difference in oocyte survival or maturation. Oocytes frozen as GVs showed elevated proportions of spontaneous activation (with or without polar body), an effect augmented by patient age. Spindle and chromosome configurations were disrupted to similar extents in both groups of frozen oocytes, with no further detrimental effect of patient age. The length, width, and volume of bipolar M-II spindles were comparable in all three groups. When frozen as GVs, oocytes exhibited decreased maturation and increased spontaneous activation, suggesting that it is best to freeze oocytes at M-II.

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