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Frozen sperm as effective as fresh when taken directly from testicle

12 August 2013
Appeared in BioNews 717

Sperm taken by biopsy from the testicles of men with a certain kinds of infertility and used in IVF can be cryopreserved without reducing the chances of a successful pregnancy.

This is the conclusion of scientists at an infertility clinic in Washington, USA, after evaluating 15 years' worth of data on testicular biopsies.

Although fertilisation rates were slightly lower for fresh sperm (47 percent versus 62 percent for cryopreserved sperm), there were no significant differences when it came to delivery rates.

'This study demonstrates that using frozen sperm taken by biopsy works as well for most patients in what matters most - pregnancy rates,' said Professor Randall Odem, co-author of the study.

The study included 136 men who had been biopsied between 1995 and 2009 for fertility problems ranging from obstructive azoospermia (having no sperm in the semen, for instance after a vasectomy), to patients who needed sperm extraction due to cancer treatment or other medical reasons. All men underwent a procedure called TESE - testicular sperm extraction - in which a bit of testicular tissue is biopsied to try to retrieve sperm cells that are not present in their semen.

For the majority of men, samples were cryopreserved after biopsy. However, for 21 patients, fresh sperm was used. For this, samples were transported at body temperature to the IVF laboratory less than 30 minutes away. Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) - a treatment that injects a sperm cell directly into in egg cell - was used for all patients.

'The convenience and ease of being able to use frozen sperm taken by biopsy in ICSI offers many advantages over fresh sperm', said co-author Dr Kenan Omurtag.

When using fresh sperm, for example, the biopsy for the sperm retrieval would have to be done within hours of the egg retrieval from the woman. These sorts of time constraints evaporate if the sperm can be cryopreserved and banked.

Overall, the study points to the reliability of cryopreservation. However, the fresh sperm group's small size (21 patients), together with the fact that data from only one clinic was used mean the results should be interpreted with caution.

10 October 2016 - by Professor Allan Pacey 
The finding that men who were conceived as a result of ICSI have lower sperm counts is not surprising, but the good news is that they are not as low as might have been expected...
7 July 2014 - by Siobhan Chan 
Healthy mice have been born using sperm grown in the lab from a sample of cryopreserved testicular tissue...
6 January 2014 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
The High Court of Australia has awarded damages under contract law to a doctor who purchased assets of a fertility clinic, including a stock of cryopreserved sperm, after almost two thirds of straws provided were unusable...
25 November 2013 - by David O'Rourke 
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26 November 2012 - by Dr Rosie Morley 
An Argentinian woman has given birth to twins after IVF treatment using eggs that had been frozen for 12 years...
5 March 2008 - by BioNews 
In last week's BioNews we published an article about Canadian Mike Kuzminski, who became a father following the use of his sperm frozen 22 years earlier, prior to his starting treatment for cancer. In, it, we stated that: 'Kuzminski seems to have benefited from Canada's current policy indecision regarding gamete...
1 June 2004 - by Dr Jess Buxton 
Last week's news that a healthy baby boy was conceived using sperm frozen 21 years earlier triggered a flurry of front page news stories. Rather confusingly, several referred to the infant, born in 2002, as the '21-year-old baby', with one newspaper cartoon showing a newborn baby setting off for...
17 May 2004 - by BioNews 
A review of IVF procedures undertaken in the last ten years at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, US, has shown that it makes no difference to success rates whether frozen or fresh sperm is used. The results of the study were presented last week at the Annual Scientific Meeting of...
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