Ovation News

Lab Director Improves Sperm Thaw-Freeze Effectiveness for Testicular Biopsy

Dr. Mitchel C. Schiewe Presents Three Key Findings

Los Angeles, California – May 17, 2016 – Ovation Fertility has validated a procedure for preserving intact testicular tissue prior to freezing, allowing sperm cells adequate time to move prior to and after cryopreservation in proper culture media and choosing the ideal incubation temperature of 30°C. These combined practices lead to improved post-thaw outcomes for male infertility treatments involving surgical sperm retrieval, says Mitchel C. Schiewe, M.S., Ph.D., HCLD (ABB), ELD (ABB), and Ovation Fertility Newport Beach laboratory director.

These findings were published in the Journal of Assisted Reproduction & Genetics, entitled “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.”

Sperm extracted from whole samples of testicular tissue were studied by a team led by Dr. Schiewe, who is with Ovation Fertility Newport Beach and the Southern California Center for Reproductive Medicine.

Testicular biopsy historically involved two time-consuming steps for embryologists

The surgical removal of sperm from testicular tissue, a process known as TESE, has historically led to same-day scheduling of fertility procedures.

Harvested sperm tends to barely move in the first three to six hours. Thus the search for a viable (moving) sperm is often challenging and time-consuming when attempting to use fresh samples to fertilize retrieved eggs on the same day to create embryos.

TESE precedes intracytoplasmic sperm injection, ICSI, a process in which embryologists inject a single sperm into the egg. Following ICSI, extra testicular tissue is often frozen in its fresh state independent of overt motility confirmation. Because post-thaw motility of these samples is usually even poorer, the selection of a viable sperm takes even more time and patience.

Over decades a hypothesis formed. Led by Dr. Schiewe, lab procedures to improve protocols for harvesting native testicular tissue were outlined. The goals – to find a protocol so frozen-thawed

sperm would be equivalent in viability to fresh sperm, to simplify the process for embryologists and to increase the overall effectiveness of testicular tissue freezing.

Rather than isolating sperm from the tissue, the study suggested a different approach—freezing whole segments of testicular tissue once progressive motile sperm were observed in a test sample.

“By employing minimal tissue manipulation, integrating a process of pre-freeze incubation at 30°C and the freezing of whole testicular biopsy tissue, we have reduced the labor and improved the efficacy of processing testicular tissue for freeze-preservation and subsequent ICSI use.” says Dr. Schiewe.

Simplify the process, says Ovation Fertility lab director

Measuring the rate of movement, from twitching to rapid progression, should be performed prior to sperm freezing to test the quality of live sperm. Dr. Schiewe noted that it often took 3 to 24 hours for sperm to begin moving once collected from testicular tissue.

“When the sperm are just starting to move and twitch, the freezing shocks them, and they don’t always recover and regain their motility promptly when thawed.”

To improve upon the process, Dr. Schiewe suggests that IVF labs should “get sperm moving nicely before they are frozen so they can recover quickly.  Once the partners’ eggs are harvested we want to able to inject them with viable sperm in an efficient, timely manner.” Freezing testicular tissue confirmed to have sperm with good motility positions patients for success in subsequent IVF cycles.

Applications for testicular biopsy and sperm freezing

  • Patients undergoing ICSI procedures in which the male partner does not produce sperm in the ejaculate benefit from this new sperm freezing research.
  • The process would improve fertility rescue success rates for men and adolescents planning to undergo cancer treatment that would harm their reproductive organs.
  • This freeze preservation protocol also benefits men who choose to start a family after a vasectomy.


Ovation Fertility™ – Ovation Fertility, founded in 2015 by a consortium of thought-leading reproductive endocrinologists, is a national fertility service provider offering all aspects of fertility treatment for intended parents, including embryology, andrology and genetic testing as part of the in-vitro fertilization process. Ovation Fertility partners with prominent physician clinics that are committed to reducing the average cost of a live birth through IVF by advancing the industry standard in fertility treatments. For more information, visit www.OvationFertility.com.