Almost nothing can devastate a couple trying to conceive, as a diagnosis of azoospermia. They often feel as though they will never be able to have a biological child. Our laboratory is now offering a new test (Extended Sperm Search & Microfreeze, or ESSM) that significantly increases the chances of finding and successfully freezing, thawing, and locating sperm from an ejaculated specimen. This test may eliminate the need for men with azoospermia to undergo a more invasive testicular sperm extraction, or micro-TESE.
In 44% of men previously diagnosed with non-obstructive azoospermia (where there’s a sperm production problem), sperm have been found in the ejaculate after a 4-6 hour extended sperm search. These sperm can then be stored in microdroplets on a specialized device (microfreezing) and then easily found when thawed and used for IVF.
Using this new ESSM service is simple. After one or more semen analyses showing azoospermia or cryptospermia, patients can come to our lab in advance of starting the partner’s IVF cycle. The patient will produce a specimen which is then washed using a density gradient. The sample is then divided into droplets and each droplet is evaluated under a phase contrast microscope. Identified sperm are retrieved using a micromanipulator and placed in a microdroplet, in one of three wells on an FDA approved specialized device (SpermVD) used for freezing.
The small volume on the SpermVD allows for vitrification of the sperm, with high post-thaw survival rates of 94.3%. The device is then placed into a cryovial and frozen. On the day of the scheduled IVF, the vial is thawed, using a specialized but simple technique, and the sperm are easily located in the small wells on the SpermVD. If sperm are found and frozen via ESSM prior to starting a cycle, there is no need to schedule a Testicular Sperm Extraction, or micro-TESE, which is a more invasive procedure performed in a surgical setting.
We are excited to be able to offer this truly ground-breaking technique, and grateful to Mordechai Koenig and ATIME for helping us bring it from Israel to the U.S. market. We hope it will give many couples more hope in the future.
If you’d like more information about this new technique, contact us for a free phone consultation.