The ovaries are female reproductive organs. The surface layer of the ovaries, called the cortex, contains all eggs that a woman will produce in her life.
Cryopreservation is the process of freezing biological material at extreme temperatures; most commonly -196°C/-321°F in liquid nitrogen (N2). At these low temperatures, all biological activity stops. This preservation method, in theory, makes it possible to store living cells, as well as other biological material, indefinitely, without any changes or decay occurring.
The effects of cryopreservation and long-term storage on human ovarian tissues are not known and possible damage to the tissues may occur. The risk of birth defect(s) and/or genetic damage to any child who may be born following such a procedure is also unknown.
A study from 2018 reported that of 93 children born after ovarian cryopresrvation, only one was born with a chromosome anomaly. This patient, who delivered a child born with joint contractures, had a family history of other limb malformations. This suggests that the chromosome anomaly might not be related to ovarian cryopreservation.
Given that thousands of children have been born worldwide from frozen embryos and eggs and there has been no report of increased risk of birth defects in these children, the risk of birth defects due to ovarian cryopreservation is low.
We collect the tissue during a brief surgery performed under general anaesthesia. Through a keyhole-size cut, the surgeon examines both ovaries and then removes a part or whole ovary. The tissue is immediately transported to Assisted Conception Unit at Guy’s Hospital, where it is processed for freezing. The tissue is cut into thin slices, which are then soaked in a special fluid that protects the tissue when it is cooled down using a computer-controlled programme. Frozen tissue is stored in the Assisted Conception Unit at Guy’s Hospital.
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