Announcing the first baby born from a frozen donor egg
You may have recently seen our announcement of the first baby born from a frozen donor egg in Texas. We are so happy and proud to have been able to bring this new technology to Texas. Our team looks forward to using it to help many more of our patients in the near future. Unless you follow this field closely, you may be wondering what the big deal is.
The significance of the first baby born from a frozen donor egg
While it’s true that we have been freezing both sperm and embryos for decades, eggs have been difficult to freeze successfully. When we get a sperm specimen for freezing, it may contain 50-100 million sperm. When we freeze and then thaw the specimen, only 50-60% of those sperm may survive. That leaves us with plenty of viable sperm to use. Similarly, when we freeze embryos that have at least 8 cells, 80+ or more will survive the process. When we freeze an egg, on the other hand, there is only 1 cell to begin with. If that cell fails to survive, it’s all over.
So how do we freeze and why don’t cells always survive?
In fact, “freezing” of eggs is really “freeze drying”. The egg, the largest cell in the body, is mainly of water. If we simply freeze the egg, the water can form ice crystals, which can damage the DNA. Therefore, rather than freeze the egg, we have to first remove the water. We then replace the water with a non-toxic “antifreeze.” This allows the other structures inside the egg to survive being frozen at 400 degrees below zero for a long time.
The technology that we used in the past to accomplish egg freezing involved putting the egg in a medical-grade plastic vial and slowly dropping the temperature using a programmable freezing machine. Once the egg reached a specific temperature, we would drop the vial into liquid nitrogen in order to rapidly complete the freezing process. Using this technology, about half of the eggs would survive, and programs around the world reported pregnancy rates of 2-3% per egg. Therefore, one could expect a 40% or so pregnancy rate if we could freeze 20 eggs – something that very rarely happened, as only our youngest patients even produce that many eggs. Changes in the field made the first baby born from a frozen donor egg possible.
New technology making egg freezing process
Our new technology, developed in conjunction with good friends in Atlanta, uses a different type of non-toxic “antifreeze” and other equipment. They have been using this technology for several years now, and have reported 50-55% pregnancy rates with the use of 6 or fewer eggs.
Is this technology available everywhere? In fact, many IVF programs say that they can freeze eggs. However, the overwhelming majority have never reported a successful birth once the eggs have been thawed and used. The key question to ask is not can they freeze eggs, but have they produced a successful pregnancy.
We believe, as a result of reported successes like ours, that the FDA will soon require IVF programs to use only frozen donor eggs. We are so happy that this technology will allow TFC to remain on the forefront of fertility treatment for our patients. Contact us to learn more about the first baby born from a frozen donor egg in Texas.
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