Egg, Ovarian Tissue, Embryo, and Sperm Freezing
Egg, Ovarian Tissue, Embryo, and Sperm Freezing
Our cryopreservation (sperm, egg, embryo, and ovarian tissue storage) program is one of the best in the world. We have a 65% pregnancy rate per cycle with frozen embryos, which is no different than for fresh, or unfrozen, embryos. Our frozen embryo survival is over 99%. Therefore, if you have “extra” viable embryos resulting from your IVF procedure, you can feel comfortable allowing us to freeze them. Please see our section on mini-IVF on egg freezing, and on cancer for more information.
We can now also offer egg freezing for women who wish to delay childbearing, and who want to preserve their fertility for the future. Although the freezing of embryos has been quite reliable, the freezing of eggs was for a long time only experimental, and, until recently, not very successful. However, the Infertility Center of St. Louis has begun a partnership with Tokyo to bring an exciting new technique, egg vitrification [see technical video], to the United States. With this method, we can ‘flash-freeze’ unfertilized eggs with remarkable effectiveness, and then thaw them at any later date for reimplantation. We can also offer ovarian tissue freezing for women who do not want to undergo IVF in the future but who just want to conceive naturally or, of course, for cancer patients.
The classic problem with freezing eggs used to be that as one lowered the temperature below the freezing point, the egg’s uncombined genetic material (ready for fertilization, but also in a complex and delicate state) would suffer damage due to ice crystals forming inside the cell. It was only possible to freeze embryos, in which the genetic material had already combined with that from the sperm, and stabilized. The classic freezing techniques (which have been known since 1983) were based on trying to extract water from the cell as the temperature drops, to minimize ice crystal damage. This has all changed now with the development of our new vitrification techniques. We no longer have to play a tenuous game of minimizing ice crystal formation — we can now entirely avoid it — so that there is no internal damage to the egg whatsoever.
We also offer very excellent quality ovarian tissue freezing. This procedure can be used to preserve the possibility of future fertility for women who are about to undergo radiation or chemotherapy for cancer. It may also be used for those women who may not be able to plan for children until they are older. We have had many successful ovarian tissue transplants and pregnancies, and so ovarian tissue freezing has excellent promise for preserving your natural fertility.
Sperm freezing may be needed if the husband is about to undergo radiation or chemotherapy for cancer, or is being deployed to a war zone, but wants to father children later. In addition, sperm may be frozen if the husband has no sperm in his ejaculate and requires a onetime surgical sperm extraction procedure, or simply, if the husband is afraid that on the day of your IVF procedure he may be too nervous to provide a specimen. Again, you can be very confident in the reliability of our sperm freezing and storage system.
Cancer patient Amy Tucker becomes pregnant after her frozen ovarian tissue is transplanted by Dr. Silber- Fox Channel 2 St. Louis
Learn more about:
Freezing Eggs or Embryos by the Vitrification Process
Video of Dr. Silber discussing Egg and Ovary Banking to Preserve Fertility
This new technique of freezing called “vitrification” avoids the damage caused by ice forming inside the cell by not trying to pull every last molecule of water out because it is impossible to do this 100%. In fact, 70% of the cell is water, and at best you can reduce that to 30%. So with the conventional controlled rate slow-freezing technique, there is always going to be some intra-cellular ice crystal formation, causing some damage to embryos, and severely damaging most eggs. Vitrification uses a super high concentration of antifreeze (DMSO and ethylene glycol) and drops the temperature so rapidly that the water inside the cell never becomes ice. It just instantaneously super-cools into a solid with no ice crystal formation at all.
We can now freeze and thaw, and even refreeze and rethaw, with impunity, using this new protocol from Dr. Masashige Kuwayama from Tokyo. With conventional “slow freezing,” the temperature of the embryo goes down at precisely 0.3°C per minute. With vitrification (using four times the concentration of antifreeze, or cryoprotectant), the temperature is dropped at 23,000 degrees C° per minute, that is 70,000 times faster. At that speed of cooling, and at that concentration of antifreeze, ice crystals simply cannot form.
Of course, it is not quite as simple as it might sound. Such high concentrations of antifreeze, in a few minutes, could be toxic to cells due to osmotic shifts. Therefore, the embryos (or eggs) must first be placed in lower concentrations of antifreeze (and sucrose to draw some water out) and then left in high concentrations only for less than a minute before instantaneous freezing. Then when the time comes to thaw the embryo, it must be instantaneously warmed, immediately taken out of the high concentration of antifreeze, and then placed into a solution with a lower concentration, in order to avoid antifreeze osmotic toxicity. This requires more skill than conventional freezing, but it is faster, cheaper, and most importantly, avoids almost all freezing damage to either eggs or embryos. Such a reliable method of embryo freezing gives the IVF program much greater ability to avoid dangerous multiple pregnancies, and makes scheduling for procedures like egg donation simpler for the patient.
Using this vitrification technique for freezing, we can reliably preserve eggs as well as embryos so that the pregnancy rate is no different than if the eggs or embryos had never been frozen. This allows us to preserve the fertility of young women for the future if they wish to delay childbearing, but not lose their fertility as they age.
“Fertility: stop all the clocks”from The London Daily Telegraph Sunday Magazine
- Twin Sisters Try to Get Pregnant with Ovaries They Froze in 2009 – NPR Article, July 2016
- Dr. Silber answers questions from national reporter about ovary freezing and egg freezing for cancer patients
- “Women could delay the menopause indefinitely with ovary transplant: doctors” The Telegraph, July 4, 2012
- Preserving Your Fertility – Marie Claire magazine article
- Complex Surgery Involved In First Successful Whole Ovary Transplant
- Giving An Ovary To My Twin Was A ‘Magical’ Opportunity
- Oocyte vitrification—Women’s emancipation set in stone – Fertility and Sterility
- Intra-Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI)
- In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)
- A Special Message From Dr. Silber About Your Biological Clock and Preserving Your Fertility
- Preserving Your Fertility
- Sperm Aspiration
- News Coverage of Ovary Transplantation
- Successful vitrification of bovine and human ovarian tissue Reproductive BioMedicine Online
- Ovarian Transplantation – Our Experience and Vision. Editorial by Dr. Sherman J. Silber, M.D. IVF NEWS.Direct!
News Video of freezing the biological clock; the new techniques for preserving a woman’s fertility indefinitely.
What’s New in Fertility Treatment? February 10, 2013
New Way to Extend Fertility: Freeze Ovary Tissue Wall Street Journal; April 26, 2007
Miracle Babies – Discovery Health Video Clip January 13, 2009.
Leukemia patient cured by bone marrow transplant from her sister as a 4 year old, 25 years later receives ovary transplant from her sister to restore her lost fertility – Fox Channel 2 St. Louis.
Dr. Silber interviews a patient about to undergo ovary tissue freezing before undergoing sterilizing bone marrow transplant for aplastic anemia.
Listen to Dr. Silber discuss the biological clock, preserving your fertility and egg freezing on the KMOX Health and Fitness Show with Monica Adams, March 2, 2008. (20:58 min).
Listen to Dr. Silber and Joan Hamburg discuss the infertility epidemic on WOR Radio in New York, October 10, 2007. (24:29 min)
Listen to Dr. Silber Talk About Ovary Freezing for Cancer Patients on KMOX, St. Louis, Missouri, October 18, 2012. (1:23 min)
Dr. Sherman Silber discusses infertility topics such as ovary transplantation, the infertility epidemic and fertility options for cancer victims on St. Louis radio station KMOX. July 19, 2009. (27:04 min)
Listen to Dr. Silber discuss Egg and Ovary Freezing on WABC, New York, January 14, 2017. (2:12 min)
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Beating Your Biological Clock
If you have any questions, you may call us at (314) 576-1400.