Since in vitro fertilization has become more wide spread and common, doctors have come across an ethical problem. Picture a typical IVF procedure. After ovarian stimulation, 12 egg cells are collected, 10 of which are eligible for insemination. Seven of them are fertilized successfully and ready to be transferred into the future mother. Transferring all the embryos at once is impossible because the risk of impregnation is too high for the woman, so no more than 2 embryos are usually «planted». Another question arises — what should be done with the other cells?
One solution is for doctors to preserve the obtained embryos as long as necessary for future use. This procedure is called cryopreservation.
Cryopreservation is a method that preserves any biological material for a long time. All the metabolic processes in cells stop when deep-frozen in liquid nitrogen (—196 ºС). These cells neither live nor die. Theoretically, they have an unlimited shelf-life. After thawing the cells, they operate exactly the same as fresh ones and continue the development that was happening at the moment they were frozen.
Little by little this technology has widened its range of application in IVF and nowadays cryopreservation is used for saving germ cells (ovum and sperm cells) in reproductive medicine.
Situations when Cryopreservation is used
- To preserve extra embryos collected during the IVF procedure for future use
- In the case that transferring embryos to the woman’s body is not recommended for medical reasons in the same month as collection;
- When gamete cells and embryos need to be transferred
- During PGD (preimplantation genetic diagnosis) to detect possible genetic abnormalities in embryos
- Sex cell cryopreservation (eggs and sperm) «for future use» due to varying medical reasons (for example, upcoming chemotherapy or radiotherapy) or social situations (employment or military service during flashpoints)
- Biomaterial stockpiling in the case that sperm quality is bad, low sperm count is a problem, or if there aren’t many egg cells to work with (for example, if ovarian stimulation or azoospermia treatment is impossible) at the cost of performing several procedures for future simultaneous use
- When donor cells are used to «disconnect» the donor from the treatment process of the parents-to-be
Originally sperm and embryo cryopreservation was impossible because of the large amount of water, but now the procedure is relatively easy. From physics, water freezes and forms ice crystals that damage egg cells and lead to their demise. To solve this problem, a type of cryopreservation, vitrification, was developed. Vitrification is the most modern and progressive type of cryopreservation.
The method involves immersing the egg cell in a special liquid called a cryoprotectant. This substance replaces water both inside and outside of the cell so no crystals form when frozen. After that, a tiny drop of liquid with the egg inside is put in a special device (cryotransmitter) and immediately immersed in liquid nitrogen. The drop freezes so fast that solution doesn’t have time to crystallize and enters a glass-like state instantly. This process explains the name (in Latin, vitrum means glass).
Today, vitrification is used to preserve embryos because it is an extremely effective method.
At the GMS IVF Clinic, we only use the best cryopreservation and cryogenic storage methods. Despite the fact that simpler methods exist, we use only vitrification to freeze embryos because it guarantees the best chance of survival and preservation for sex cells (95–99%). We strive to work to the best of our ability while preserving the physical and psychological comfort of our patients. By choosing cryopreservation and cryogenic storage at the GMS IVF Clinic, you receive:
- Medical care from experts with many years of experience in the reproductive technology field
- The guarantee that our equipment and materials are from leading global manufacturers
- The use of customized medications from the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies. We guarantee the highest standard for EACH medication
- A comprehensive approach to treating each individual case
- Convenient access to all essential medical advisory services and procedures (all under the same roof)
- Fast and 100% high-quality test results in our OWN GMS laboratory
- The ability to have medical procedures at any time that’s convenient for you
- Around-the-clock medical and consulting support available every day of the week