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Pacific Fertility Center Announces Breakthrough in Egg Freezing Technology
Date:2/21/2008

SAN FRANCISCO, Feb. 21 /PRNewswire/ -- A Pacific Fertility Center (PFC) patient, who underwent an embryo transfer with embryos created from vitrified and warmed donor oocytes (eggs), successfully delivered a baby in late October 2007. A healthy baby boy was born at term. Three other pregnancies are ongoing and are expected to deliver in 2008.

PFC has been developing an oocyte vitrification program for the past two years. This program is a part of their ongoing research to develop and implement new services. "Vitrification" refers to a new alternative method for freezing eggs and embryos. While it has been possible to preserve sperm for many years (the famed Dutch microscopist Antony von Leeuwenhoek allegedly cooled and then recovered sperm using snow and ice in the 17th century), reliable methods for preserving unfertilized eggs have been elusive until now.

Traditionally, preservation of sperm and embryos has been achieved with the use of a technique called slow freezing. This process incubates the sperm or embryos in low concentrations of cryoprotectants (antifreeze) to draw water out of the cells, which are then cooled very slowly to sub zero temperatures. This technology typically only works for cells that exist individually or in small numbers, such as sperm and embryos. However, slow freezing does not work well for human eggs. In fact, the estimates for rates of success with slow freezing is about two births for every 100 eggs thawed.

In recent months, this vitrification technology has been used at PFC for oocyte preservation. Vitrification works by using higher concentrations of cryoprotectants and much faster cooling rates. Cells are cooled in tiny straws which achieve cooling rates of several thousand degrees per minute. When vitrification straws and cryoprotectants were first approved by the FDA for human embryos, PFC began the process of adapting the technology to oocytes. "Even though we've been handling oocytes and embryos for
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SOURCE Pacific Fertility Center
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