Evidence-based ET: What is the best protocol for cryopreserving IVF-derived bovine embryos?

Evidence-based ET: What is the best protocol for cryopreserving IVF-derived bovine embryos?

John F. Hasler

Note: The title of this column was suggested by our AETA board of directors

There has been concern regarding the best way to cryopreserve bovine IVF-derived embryos ever since commercial in vitro embryo production (IVP) started in the early 1990s. Donors in the early days were primarily infertile, problem donors, and annual IVP embryo production in the United States was limited to a few thousand embryos, at most. Production of IVP embryos has increased substantially in recent years, and in 2013, it was reported that 48,112 embryos were produced from OPU collections compared with 301,671 in vivo embryos collected from superovulated cattle. Thus, 13.8% of the total embryos produced were from IVF procedures and 55% of them were reported to have been frozen. It is anticipated that reported IVP production will be substantially higher in 2014. Understandably, the companies providing IVF services are reluctant to share details of their cryopreservation services. However, because fresh IVP embryos are often shipped overnight to ET practitioners/donor owners for transfer on-farm, embryo numbers sometimes exceed the number of available recipients. Consequently, not infrequently, practitioners are faced with cryopreserving leftover IVP embryos. Even today, however, there does not seem to be any widely agreed upon, best protocol for cryopreserving IVP embryos. In the last few years it has been publically reported that IVP embryos have been commercially cryopreserved by vitrification and slow freezing with both ethylene glycol (EG) and glycerol used as the cryoprotectants.


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