The Pacific Fertility Centre, in San Francisco, California, said that one of its cryo-storage tanks 'lost liquid nitrogen for a brief period of time' on 4 March, the same weekend that an unrelated clinic in Ohio also had a tank malfunction (see BioNews 941).
'As soon as the issue was discovered, our most senior embryologists took immediate action to transfer those tissues from the affected equipment to a new piece of equipment,' the centre said in a statement which also contained an apology to patients.
The centre has stressed that only one out of several tanks was affected and that not all samples in that tank have been damaged.
The centre has contacted patients whose eggs and embryos were impacted, but it is unclear in many cases if their samples are still viable or not. For some patients, all of their eggs or embryos were in the same tank, even in the same vial, so they may have lost all their cryopreserved material.
'It’s really quite sad the samples weren't split up,' Dr Nahid Turan at the Coriell Institute for Medical Research in Camden, New Jersey, told Wired. 'They were literally putting all the eggs in one basket.'
A class-action lawsuit against the centre has already been launched by law firms Girard Gibbs and Sauder Schelkopf on behalf of patients who have lost eggs and embryos.
'Pacific Fertility Centre was entrusted to preserve and safeguard these eggs and embryos, and it failed. The company must be held accountable for the harm and anxiety it has needlessly caused patients and their families,' said Matthew Schelkopf of Sauder Schelkopf.