The original problem with freezing ovarian tissue and eggs was due to damage from ice crystal formation in the inner layers of these cells. Now with the new vitrification process, the inside of the cell is not frozen. The new procedure is based on the insight that all of the eggs in each ovary live in the outermost layer of tissue. Japanese scientists discovered a successful way to "flash freeze" only this thin outer layer; results have been remarkably effective. Medical researchers in the United States are working with the Japanese scientists, and clinical research trials have begun. Dr. Sherman Silber of the Infertility Center of St. Louis has partnered with the Kato Ladies Clinic in Tokyo to bring some of these emerging technologies to the United States.
To obtain the eggs that will be frozen, the procedure is the same as for IVF egg retrieval. Fertility medication is given to stimulate and induce ovulation, ultrasound and blood tests monitor when the eggs are mature, and then ultrasound-guided egg retrieval is performed. Obtaining ovarian tissue requires a brief outpatient laparos-copy procedure for the purpose of ovarian biopsy. Through the use of microsurgical techniques, only the thin outer layer of the ovary is removed, frozen, and eventually grafted back at a later date, much like a skin graft.
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