Ovation Fertility™ Newport Beach lab director, with the freedom to question the status quo, improves sperm freezing protocols
Over three-plus decades Mitchel C. Schiewe, M.S., Ph.D., HCLD (ABB), ELD (ABB), made a series of observations about protocols for handling and freezing sperm retrieved from testicular tissue. His tested theories are now published research, “Validation-verification of a highly effective, practical human testicular tissue in vitro culture-cryopreservation (IVC) procedure aimed to optimize pre-freeze and post-thaw motility.”
His goals were to simplify the process for the embryologist and to improve the overall effectiveness of providing viable sperm for three key patient populations:
- Men requiring sperm retrieval prior to intracytoplasmic sperm injection and ICSI, with IVF
- Male patients, particularly post-pubescent adolescents, who will have fertility-destroying cancer treatments
- Men who regret having a vasectomy and wish to start families
Giving a hypothesis time to develop over the July 4th weekend
Dr. Schiewe, Ovation Fertility™ Newport Beach lab director, recalls that when he was in the IVF lab in the 1990s, a couple was scheduled for an IVF procedure over a long holiday weekend. For scheduling reasons, his IVF lab team needed to “hold on to the sperm sample for four days before use, and it turned out fine. The couple had triplets, proving the sperm was more than viable,” he said.
That gave Dr. Schiewe the courage to reimagine the timeframe between collection and freezing sperm or ICSI use.
Let the sperm “swim nicely in the culture media before freezing.”
Warming up to the idea of sperm freezing
Dr. Schiewe was fortunate to contribute to building a new IVF lab in early 2000. The new facility was temperature-controlled to 21° C and was temporarily operating side by side with the old lab. It turned out that the equipment in the older, smaller lab heated the environment to 30-32° C.
Sperm thrived in the warmer temperatures, as evidenced when Dr. Schiewe compared sperm incubation temperatures at 21°, 30°, and 37° C in his research.
The study concluded that 30° C is ideal.
Less is more when it comes to testicular tissue manipulation
It also appears that keeping sperm in its natural environment (testicular tissue) provides benefits and that freezing testicular tissue as distinct masses of whole tissue eliminates the need to manipulate sperm twice—once prior to freezing and again afterwards.
“Today’s embryologist is overwhelmed with the increasing technology of applying daily embryo biopsy and vitrification procedures, which are both intense and time-consuming,” says Dr. Schiewe.
Using whole segments of testicular tissue reduces the labor and improves sperm- freezing outcomes.
Embryologists will prefer this simplified approach [to preserving sperm], he says. Patients benefit because there is a better selection of good quality sperm post-thaw and easier scheduling between the urologist for sperm retrieval and the reproductive endocrinologist for egg retrieval and ICSI.
Processing testicular tissue requires great patience and is not a glamorous field of study, acknowledged the seasoned embryologist. “I stayed with it, learned and improved it to make everyone’s life simpler and more satisfying in the future,” he says
Contact us at Ovation Fertility™ to learn more about the research we are conducting in the field of reproductive medicine.