Semen cryopreservation or sperm banking
Semen cryopreservation (commonly known as sperm banking or sperm freezing) is a procedure to preserve sperm cells. Semen can be used successfully indefinitely after cryopreservation.
For human sperm, the longest reported successful storage is 24 years.
It can be used for sperm donation where the recipient wants the treatment in a different time or place, or as a means of preserving fertility for men undergoing vasectomy or treatments that may compromise their fertility, such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy or surgery.
The most common cryoprotectant used for semen is glycerol. Often sucrose or other di-trisaccharide’s are added to the glycerol solution. Cryoprotectant media may be supplemented with either egg yolk or soy lecithin, with the two having no statistically significant differences compared to each other regarding motility, morphology, ability to bind, to hyaluronate in vitro, or DNA integrity after thawing.
Additional cryoprotectants can be used to increase sperm viability and fertility rates post-freezing. Treatment of sperm with heparin binding proteins prior to cryopreservation showed decreased cryoinjury and generation of ROS. The addition of nerve growth factor as a cryoprotectant decreases sperm cell death rates and increased motility after thawing. Incorporation of cholesterol into sperm cell membranes with the use of cyclodextrins prior to freezing also increases sperm viability.
Semen is frozen using either a controlled-rate, slow-cooling method (slow programmable freezing) or a newer flash-freezing process known as vitrification. Vitrification gives superior post-thaw motility and cryosurgical than slow programmable freezing.
Thawing at 40 °C seems to result in optimal sperm motility. On the other hand, the exact thawing temperature seems to have only minor effect on sperm viability, acrosomal status, ATP content, and DNA.