To struggle with infertility is to do battle with a vast realm of emotions and uncertainty.

When someone endures so much to have a baby, they deserve the best chance possible at success. Whether they’re starting their first IVF cycle or are searching for a frozen donor egg bank, why shouldn’t they have the most favorable success rates possible?

For this reason, the medical field has begun to utilize cryogenic therapy to enhance the positive outcomes of various fertility treatment protocols.

But why?

How is it that one component has the potential to change the face of infertility solutions?

Through cryogenic freezing technologies such as vitrification, scientists and healthcare practitioners now have access to higher quality specimens, like frozen embryos, donor sperm, or donor eggs.

Compared to the various forms of slow-freeze technologies preceding vitrification, cryogenic therapy offers hopeful parents something they thought they might have lost – the chance to have a baby.

How Did Slow-Freeze Technology Negatively Impact Fertility Treatments?

For years, when fertility specialists needed to freeze biological samples from patients such as their eggs, sperm, or embryos, it entailed a slow freezing process often referred to as ‘controlled-rate freezing.’

During this procedure, the collected specimens would be slowly cooled until they reached -320° Fahrenheit. Once lab workers accomplished this, they would move them into a special controlled-rate freezer filled with liquid nitrogen. The liquid nitrogen would continue to cool and freeze the samples.

While there were initially benefits to slow-freeze technology, lab workers and researchers began to notice serious problems with this technique.

Not only did the freezing stage take longer to complete and require expensive equipment, it caused ice crystal formation to occur inside the specimens. This process caused a breakdown of cellular structure, making slow-frozen specimens unusable.

It also made it difficult for samples to survive thawing when the time came for their use. For example, one study related to oocyte freezing determined only approximately 66% of slow-frozen eggs would survive the thaw.

Vitrification: The Evolution of Fertility Treatments Using Cryogenic Technology

While researchers long viewed slow-freeze technology as a trusted option for fertility-related specimens, its unreliability in thawing drove the quest for alternative solutions.

When lab workers were cryogenically freezing biological materials during this quest, they tried first exposing the materials to advanced cryoprotectants before cryopreservation. These substances prevented ice crystal formation and protected samples during storage. After this step was complete, specimens were submerged in liquid nitrogen for storage.

This is where vitrification and cryopreservation come in.

In a 2013 article comparing vitrification and slow-freeze methods as a tool for oocyte freezing, scientists found that vitrified eggs had a significantly higher chance of surviving thawing. Another similar study goes so far as to state flash-frozen eggs have a 90-97% chance of surviving storage and thawing.

Regarding vitrified vs. slow-frozen embryos, another study found that flash-freezing can also increase the likelihood of implantation.

Sperm also sees benefits from cryogenic freezing. Not only are they more likely to survive thawing, but studies have shown slow-frozen sperm have lower motility and increased DNA fragmentation in comparison to vitrified sperm.

What Types of Procedures Have Benefitted from Flash-Freezing Technology?

In addition to better options for freezing and storing eggs, sperm, and embryos, the development of various cryogenic therapies has improved other aspects of fertility-related studies and treatments.

Some of these include:

  • Fertility Research: With improved access to quality specimens, scientists can perform more infertility-related research to enhance available treatment options.
  • Cervical Surgeries: If someone is experiencing unusual vaginal bleeding or has precancerous cells, surgeons would previously conduct invasive cervical surgeries to fix the problem. Thankfully, they can now use an instrument called a cryoprobe to perform cryosurgeries quickly and more efficiently.
  • Access to Vital Medicinal Plants: Doctors rely on various medicinal plants to make the different medications and supplements required to treat infertility-related illnesses and conditions. With flash-freezing technology at their disposal, these plants are more accessible than ever before.

Changing the Face of Infertility Treatments One Discovery at a Time

One of the most incredible things about science and technology is how processes are continually improving. While one procedure may have been sufficient in the past, there’s no reason a better option won’t be discovered in the future. This is the case with fertility-related cryogenic therapies.

Whether someone is looking for quality results during IVF, donor egg, or surrogacy treatment protocols, or they need cervical surgery; enhanced flash-freezing techniques provides top-notch remedies and solutions they deserve.

Just because they’ve had a hard time getting pregnant doesn’t mean they won’t ever build a family. Cryogenics can help them pave a new path.

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