Egg Freezing's Future
Is the Future of Egg Freezing Here? On the surface, it sounds remarkable that one can now shop for frozen oocytes through a start-up company called Cryo Eggs International, which offers single frozen oocytes for sale for $2,500 apiece via mail order. Based in Arizona, the company offers no guarantees whatsoever. The company claims that couples can save money and reduce their risk by choosing individual frozen eggs over the more involved and expensive process of working with a donor to produce fresh oocytes for fertilization.
But is that time now? A handful of infertility clinics are offering female patients a chance to undergo an IVF cycle and freeze their eggs for future use. Eventually PFC expects to offer this. Yet the majority of these clinics insist on prominently displaying the disclaimer that egg freezing technologies are still evolving and are highly experimental.
Indeed, as of early 2005, less than 1% of eggs that had been frozen and thawed had resulted in live born infants. (Keeping Egg Freezing in Perspective). Most certainly, egg-freezing technologies advancing cryopreservation of oocytes are evolving rapidly. (A Few Good Eggs). Yet the research community is still weighing the advances of different freezing mediums and methodologies, such as rapid vs slow freezing and thawing. Responsible researchers/authors publishing their work in the global body of scientific literature are calling for several more years of studies with larger numbers of participants.
Most of the current research is based on very small groups. Cryo Eggs International attributes its success to the advances of Dr. Jeff Boldt, an associate professor of medical and molecular genetics and scientific director of Assisted Fertility Services at the Community Health Network, Indianapolis. He is also reportedly the scientific director at Cryo Eggs International. Yet Boldt's primary published work in a scientific journal reported the results of a study that only involved 11 women. He is quoted in the media as having a larger number (33) of cycles from which results were comparable to standard IVF procedures, yet this study has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed science journal.
Can one tell if an egg is good or bad upon thawing? Unlike sperm, of which mainly healthy ones are frozen, there is no sure way to determine quality control of a donor's eggs short of conducting a DNA analysis of the resulting embryo. In this regard, Cryo's customers are essentially asked to purchase single oocytes not knowing if they are viable.
Associated Costs with Frozen Eggs After oocytes have been frozen they may have a thicker outer wall, otherwise known as the zona pellucida. This generally requires the embryologist to apply additional costly methodologies such as assisted hatching and ICSI.
Healthy Quarantine The six months of freezing that is required before the frozen eggs can be released is no different than the six month testing requirement that a typical donor must go through to test for infectious diseases. In this regard, it is misleading for the Cryo Eggs International web site to claim that this process is any safer than conventional donor cycles.
Successful Approach A donor cycle at Pacific Fertility Center has yielded a consistent 65% or greater success rate for many years. A key point here is this record has improved incrementally over the years after decades of experience and applying evolving technologies. It is every physician's wish for his/her infertile clients' to have inexpensive choices to tackle their life dream of conceiving. It is also important for people to be as well informed as possible so their money may be spent for the most cost-effective and successful method for their particular situation. -- Carolyn Givens, MD
Update: With new advances in oocyte cryopreservation, egg freezing is becoming more and more of an option for women looking to preserve their fertility.