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New egg freezing technique offers hope to hundreds of women

>Professor Nottola, an associate professor of anatomy in the Department of Anatomy, University La Sapienza, Rome, Italy, told the conference that a variety of abnormalities became apparent when frozen-thawed eggs were inspected more closely, even in those that appeared undamaged after thawing. In addition, the type and/or concentration of agent that was used to protect the egg during freezing (cryoprotectant agent or CPA) might affect the eggs as well.

Six eggs were frozen using a multi-step procedure that involved increasing concentrations of ethylene glycol (EG) as a CPA. Twelve were frozen using propane-1,2-diol (PrOH) and two different amounts of sucrose as CPAs. After thawing, the eggs were studied using light and transmission electron microscopy (LM and TEM).

The eggs appeared normal when observed with LM, although some eggs showed the development of vacuoles (small cavities that sometimes contain water, food or metabolic waste) in their cytoplasm. When TEM was used, more differences became apparent. These included:

  • changes to the linkages between mitochondria (microscopic respiratory structures in the cytoplasm) and intracellular membranes amongst the EG-treated eggs
  • changes to the amount and density of cortical granules (particles that harden the exterior of the egg once it has been fertilised to prevent other sperm penetrating it)
  • changes to the structure of the egg exterior (the zona pellucida).

TEM also confirmed that some eggs, particularly those treated with EG and with the PrOH agent containing more sucrose, had vacuoles developing ?a process known as vacuolisation.

Professor Nottola said: "These data suggest that frozen-thawed oocytes may look similar to fresh oocytes, but when they are examined more closely it becomes apparent that there are a number of very small but important alterations to specific parts of numerous oocytes, which presumably are responsible for their reduced deve
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Source:European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology


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