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Reprod Biomed Online. 2015 Apr;30(4):325-33. doi: 10.1016/j.rbmo.2014.12.012. Epub 2015 Jan 12.

Open versus closed systems for vitrification of human oocytes and embryos.

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BGI Shenzhen, Beishan Industrial Zone, Yantian District, Shenzhen, China; Central Queensland University, Bruce Highway, Rockhampton, Queensland, Australia. Electronic address:
Clinica Valle Giulia, G.E.N.E.R.A. Centre for Reproductive Medicine, Via G. De Notaris 2b, Rome, Italy.


Vitrification is now the dominant approach for cryopreservation of human oocytes and embryos; however, serious disagreement persists, particularly about biosafety issues. Techniques are categorized as either 'open' or 'closed' according to occurrence of direct contact between the medium and liquid nitrogen during cryopreservation. Advocates of closed systems emphasize the potential danger of disease transmission mediated through liquid nitrogen, and praise the safety of their approach; those who use the open systems refer to the lack of evidence of disease transmission and regard their systems as more consistent and efficient. The purpose of this review is to clarify whether open and closed systems are really open and closed; if closed systems are safe and free of any danger of contamination; if closed systems are equally efficient as open ones for cryopreservation of human embryos and oocytes by considering overall outcome; and finally, if ethical and legal concerns are sound when risks and benefits are considered in a broader sense. On the basis of these answers, implementation of rational measures to lower the theoretical danger of disease transmission are proposed while maintaining the achievements in cryopreservation that have contributed substantially to the advancement in assisted reproduction techniques during the past decade.


biosafety; closed; cryopreservation; disease transmission; open; vitrification

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