Semen cryopreservation, as the name suggests, involves preservation of sperm. This lucrative method (also known as sperm banking), helps in using sperms favorably once the sample has been carefully preserved. Sperm banking comes in handy when donated sperms are required to be used in a later time period or perhaps at some other place.
Interestingly, a human sperm can be stored for up to 22 years without undergoing any degenerative changes in DNA. Men who go through vasectomy, radiation therapy, chemotherapy (as in case of cancer) often have their testis affected by the cytotoxic effects of the procedures and drugs, which in turn compromise the fertility. For all such men semen cryopreservation, has shown a great deal of convenience.
How Is It Done?
Using slow-cooling methods like SPE (slow programmable freezing) or vitrification at a controlled rate, the semen sample can be carefully freezed. As compared to SPE, vitrification is a new technique that yields enhanced cryosurvival and ensures maximum motility of sperms after the semen sample is thawed.
Sperm that are thawed at 40°C have maximum motility however, this temperature has no significant effect on the DNA, ATP, acrosomal structure and viability of sperm.
When Can Semen Cryopreservation Be Done?
- Before undergoing chemotherapy/radiation therapy: Treatments/ therapeutic procedures for various malignancies considerably escalate the risk of infertility in men. Although in some cancer therapies, infertility may be reversible with treatment (such as management of primary illness); nonetheless there are 50-95% chances of permanent infertility in most cases of malignancy especially when bone marrow transplantation or combination therapies have been employed as the primary treatment options for testicular cancer and lymphoma. Therefore, preservation of sperm prior to undergoing such treatments provides long term assistance to the patients as they still have a shot to reproduce.
- Before prostate or testicular surgery: Prostratectomy often leads to infertility in men. Cryopreservation however may come in handy for men who undergo this procedure.
- Before Vasectomy: Storing sperms before undergoing vasectomy can save the patients from expensive reversal surgeries by retaining their reproductive ability.
- Before having hormonal replacement therapy or assisted fertility procedure: Cryopreservation ensures that the sperm is available at the time of upcoming reproduction procedure even if the availability of sperms from husband or partner is uncertain.
- When exposed to occupational hazards: Often, men find themselves exposed to various chemicals at their workplace, that may put their fertility to risk. Men who are directly exposed to radiations, or heavy metals such as lead, pesticide, herbicide, and various other toxins are at much higher risk. Elite athletes and military men are more prone to testicular injury which may affect their fertility.
- When diagnosed with low sperm count (oligospermia): Cryopreservation helps in promoting the chances of a healthy pregnancy especially in case of oligospermia as it helps in insemination with the use of previously combined and preserved concentrated sample of sperms. Previously this procedure was disregarded however it has earned its consideration with the advancement in IVF like ICSI (Intracytoplasmic sperm injection) provided that the spermatozoa are available within the ejaculate.
Application Of Semen Cryopreservation In Assisted Fertility
ICSI procedure and preserved spermatozoa that are obtained from the testes directly, can lead to successful pregnancy. In infertile couple, these technologies do not bring about any abnormalities in the offspring. The number of people opting for cryopreservation has increased over the period of time. Doctors and nurses have a great contribution in promoting awareness among the patients.
Semen cryopreservation has not only facilitated patients but it has also served as a backup plan for patients with poor or uncertain prognosis. Men who seek cancer treatment find mental reassurance from elective cyrostorage.
- Holt, W. V., Penfold, L. M., Chenoweth, P., & Lorton, S. (2014). Fundamental and practical aspects of semen cryopreservation. Animal Andrology: Theories and Applications, 76.
- Ribas‐Maynou, J., Fernández‐Encinas, A., García‐Peiró, A., Prada, E., Abad, C., Amengual, M. J., … & Benet, J. (2014). Human semen cryopreservation: a sperm DNA fragmentation study with alkaline and neutral Comet assay. Andrology, 2(1), 83-87.
- Rooney, C., Clinton, F., Mc Loughlin, S., Olalia, R., Mullaly, R., Malone, A., … & Pears, J. (2016, November). A Review of the Provision of Semen Cryopreservation in Adolescent Males Receiving Cancer Treatment. In PEDIATRIC BLOOD & CANCER (Vol. 63, pp. S170-S170). 111 RIVER ST, HOBOKEN 07030-5774, NJ USA: WILEY-BLACKWELL.