Freezing sperm can preserve fertility in men who:
- Are about to have treatment for cancer, or undergo prostate or testicular surgery, all of which can harm sperm quality or production.
- Plan to have a vasectomy.
- Are in high-risk professions with exposure to chemicals, radiation or extreme heat that can cause sterility.
- Suffer ejaculatory dysfunction.
The Freezing process
A cryoprotective ingredient is added to the semen to control the damage caused by cryopreservation. Cryoprotectants are low molecular weight and highly permeable chemicals that are used to protect sperm from freezing and ice crystallisation. At Medimall IVF Clinic we use the rapid freezing technique. It requires direct contact between sterile tubes that hold the samples in nitrogen vapor for 8 to 10 minutes, followed by immersion in liquid nitrogen at -196 °C.
The Thawing process
Thawing the sperm is equally important as freezing: it must allow the cells to recover their normal, biological activities, without extreme thermal changes. In general, cryopreservation protocols use 37 °C as the thawing temperature. Although higher melting temperatures allow faster thawing, they are not used because of the risks of damaging the cells. Once the sperm cells are thawed, they are separated from the cryopreservation medium through washing inside the culture medium and centrifugation.
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