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home > American Society for Reproductive Medicine > ASRM-IFFS 2013 > PG 4 - Cryopreservation of Reproductive Cells and Tissues - Real World Approaches and Laboratory Pearls

PG 4 - Cryopreservation of Reproductive Cells and Tissues - Real World Approaches and Laboratory Pearls


Developed in Cooperation with the Society of Reproductive Biologists and Technologists



Marybeth Gerrity, Ph.D., M.B.A., Chair

 Reproductive Biology Resources, Inc.

Alison Finn, M.S.

 University of Connecticut Health Center

Kyle E. Orwig, Ph.D.

 University of Pittsburgh

Linda J. Siano, M.A., M.S., E.L.D.

 University of Connecticut Health Center




Cryopreservation of reproductive cells and tissues has been practiced for more than half a century. However, lack of consensus on best practices has led to variable cryopreservation success rates that may hamper clinical utilization. While human sperm has been cryopreserved for decades, techniques such as oocyte vitrification are relatively recent technology breakthroughs. The learning curve for some of these techniques can be steep and best practices for how to determine a laboratory’s competence to perform the procedures are still evolving. As the types of patients who are candidates for cryopreservation procedures expand beyond fertility patients to include those with chronic diseases, it may not be feasible to mount multiple attempts at cryopreservation. Optimizing outcomes from the outset will be critical. Review of the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART) outcome statistics indicate the outcomes with cryopreservation of embryos vary by center, and strategies for assessing the cause of the variability must be developed before the technique is offered to patients who may have only one chance for a successful outcome (e.g., cancer patients). 


At the same time, long-term storage of these frozen cells and tissues presents challenges to long-term success. Cells formerly stored for several years may now be stored for decades. As frozen egg banks become more common, the lessons learned from years of sperm banking should not be lost and good tissue-banking practices must be implemented. Finally, experimental techniques that broaden the types of tissues that can be cryopreserved are in use at some centers. Knowledge of these methods, including their strengths, weaknesses and limitations, is essential in determining if they are safe and efficacious and ready to move into widespread use or should be reserved for specialized centers. This live course for laboratory clinicians will cover current cryopreservation techniques and their application outside of infertility treatment, instituting competency-based training in laboratories, and issues of longterm storage of cells and tissues.


ACGME Competency

Patient care




At the conclusion of this course, participants should be able to:

1. Describe the scope of the clinical use of cryopreservation of reproductive tissues and cells outside of infertility treatment.

2. Assess the best methods for cryopreservation according to tissue type, including factors that can limit success.

3. Design a plan for competency-based training that can be instituted for each cell or tissue type. 

4. Discuss the unique technical, financial, logistical and regulatory challenges of long-term storage of reproductive cells and tissues.

5. Compare and contrast the practice of long-term banking of anonymous sperm donors with that of egg donors and answer the question: “What can egg banks learn from sperm banks?”


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