Vitrification of biomaterial: rapid freezing of spermatozoa, eggs and embryos


Vitrification is used for delayed artificial insemination.

Vitrification of biomaterial is a method of rapid freezing of tissues without the formation of ice crystals. The term comes from the Latin word vitreum – “glass”, because under the action of extremely low temperature the material “glasses”. In embryology, vitrification has become widespread as a method of preserving eggs, sperm, and embryos that can be used in assisted reproductive technologies in the future.

Who uses vitrification

Vitrification is used for delayed artificial insemination. It can be delayed for various reasons. One of the most urgent reasons is the war in Ukraine. Cryopreservation enables military men and women to preserve their reproductive potential in the event of serious injury or death. If a person dies, their partner or parents can use the frozen cells to have a baby from their loved one.

The Center for Reproductive Medicine “Mother and Child” has opened a preferential program for the military: men can freeze and store sperm free of charge for a year. For military women, the preferential oocyte cryopreservation program is paid for at minimal cost. The program is valid until the end of the war.

You can find out the details by contacting the center:

How vitrification occurs

First of all, the cells are prepared: the water is partially removed, replacing it with a preservative solution. This reduces the risk of ice crystals forming that damage cellular structures. The prepared biological material is exposed to liquid nitrogen, the temperature of which reaches -196 °C. Freezing takes milliseconds, which prevents cell degradation both during freezing and during subsequent thawing.

Frozen cells are placed in special containers, labeled and left for storage in cryogenic chambers.

How defrosting happens

The material is placed in a cryoprotectant solution with a temperature of 37°C. Cryoprotector prevents osmotic shock. The solution is changed several times, reducing the concentration of the cryoprotectant. In the last portion, it is already absent. Then the embryos, eggs or sperm can be used in the artificial insemination procedure. The biological material is thawed one to two hours before use.

How does vitrification differ from conventional cryopreservation

Conventional cryopreservation also allows long-term storage of tissue in a frozen state, but has a higher risk of ice crystal formation. A condition for vitrification is not only a high freezing rate, but also more concentrated solutions to replace water. Such solutions can be toxic to cells, but the right combination of components and the skill of the embryologist make it possible to overcome this obstacle.

A 2014 study found that vitrification has an advantage over conventional freezing. Although the advantage is only a few percent, for a particular person these percentages can be decisive.

How effective is vitrification?

According to a study published in 2019, vitrification of sperm, eggs and embryos has higher pregnancy and live birth rates. Importantly, freezing does not increase the risk of birth defects. This success may be partly due to the fact that cryopreservation uses biological material from healthy young people, whereas fresh sperm and eggs for IVF often come from people with fertility problems.

Mother and Child Medical Centers:

  • Kyiv, str. Makiivska, 8
  • Kyiv, str. Yurii Lytvynskyi, 54/15
  • Kyiv, ave. Volodymyra Ivasyuk, 8, building 4
  • Zhytomyr, st. Velika Berdychivska, 43
  • Lviv, str. Zamarstinivska, 85a
  • Kyiv, str. Kazimir Malevich, 83

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