An option for fertility preservation for women facing a cancer diagnosis involves the cryopreservation of ovarian tissue for later re-transplantation or in vitro culture, with in vitro culture preferred to avoid reintroduction of the cancer. Small, immature follicles survive the freeze-thaw process, and can be matured through in follicle maturation (IFM) that involves an initial growth of the follicle and subsequent maturation of the oocyte. The ovarian tissue can be cryopreserved in two forms: (i) cortical strips consisting of follicles and surrounding stroma (Cryo-Ov) or (ii) individually isolated follicles (Cryo-In). The aim of this study was to assess the follicle growth and oocyte maturation for follicles that were cryopreserved either as strips or individually using a slow-freezing cryopreservation method. The two follicle groups, together with non-cryopreserved control follicles, were grown in an alginate-based three-dimensional culture system for 12 days. The overall survival, size increase and antrum formation rates were comparable among the three groups. At day 12 of culture, Androstenedione levels were decreased in the Cryo-Ov group relative to the other two, and the ratio of progesterone to estradiol was increased in the two cryopreserved groups relative to the control. Both Gja1 (known as connexin 43) and Gja4 (known as connexin 37) mRNA expression were decreased at day 6 in the cryopreserved groups relative to controls, and by day 12, Gja1 was similar for all three groups. Moreover, Cryo-In resulted in lower GVBD rate indicating some impaired oocyte development. Overall, the present study demonstrated that mouse preantral follicles, either within ovarian tissues or individually isolated, could be successfully cryopreserved by the slow-freezing method, as evidenced by post-thaw follicle development and steroidgenesis, oocyte maturation and molecular markers for oocyte and/or granulosa cells connection.
Min Xu, Anna Banc, Teresa K. Woodruff, Lonnie D. Shea; Biotechnology and Bioengineering, Vol. 103, No. 2, June 1, 2009