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Freeze-Dried Eggs for Fertility Preservation: Just Add Water!

a blog by Kim Griffiths, April 4, 2013

Just when you thought vitrification (using liquid nitrogen to freeze a woman's eggs) was the hot new technology in fertility preservation, now scientists have discovered a new way to preserve fertility by freeze-drying eggs. Pioneered by a lab in Israel, the new technique reduces costs and the need for egg storage with a fertility clinic or frozen egg bank, as the powdered egg substance can be stored in your own home.

Eggs are retrieved in a process similar to in vitro fertilization (IVF) or egg freezing. They are then soaked in a sugar-based media which displaces water in the egg cells and frozen to -328 degrees Fahrenheit within one tenth of a second. This eliminates the risk of ice crystal formation which is common with older egg freezing techniques, and allows for a greater survival rate upon thaw. Remaining water is removed in a low-pressure chamber resulting in a powder which can be stored in a dark, vacuum sealed container at home almost indefinitely. To revive the eggs for future use, water must be added. The eggs will then be fertilized with sperm and transferred into the uterus.

Currently, vitrification is the most promising technique for egg freezing. It involves plunging the retrieved eggs into liquid nitrogen so rapidly that ice crystals do not have time to form.

Researchers tested this new freeze-dry technique on thirty cow eggs. Twenty-three of those were viable at the time of rehydration. A subsequent study is required to ensure these eggs can be fertilized and develop into healthy embryos. The discovery was published in a recent edition of New Scientist magazine.

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