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Adv Exp Med Biol. 2014;791:137-50. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4614-7783-9_9.

Sperm cryopreservation: effects on chromatin structure.

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Department of Experimental Medicine, University Laboratory of Seminology - Sperm Bank, University of Rome "La Sapienza", Rome, Italy,


Cryopreservation is a technique that can keep sperm alive indefinitely, enabling the conservation of male fertility. It involves the cooling of semen samples and their storage at -196°C in liquid nitrogen. At this temperature all metabolic processes are arrested. Sperm cryopreservation is of fundamental importance for patients undergoing medical or surgical treatments that could induce sterility, such as cancer patients about to undergo genotoxic chemotherapy or radiotherapy, as it offers these patients not only the hope of future fertility but also psychological support in dealing with the various stages of the treatment protocols.Despite its importance for assisted reproduction technology (ART) and its success in terms of babies born, this procedure can cause cell damage and impaired sperm function. Various studies have evaluated the impact of cryopreservation on chromatin structure, albeit with contradictory results. Some, but not all, authors found significant sperm DNA damage after cryopreservation. However, studies attempting to explain the mechanisms involved in the aetiology of cryopreservation-induced DNA damage are still limited. Some reported an increase in sperm with activated caspases after cryopreservation, while others found an increase in the percentage of oxidative DNA damage. There is still little - and contradictory - information on the mechanism of the generation of DNA fragmentation after cryopreservation. More studies are needed to establish the true importance of such damage, especially to improve the results of ART.

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