As early as 1985, ice-free cryopreservation of mouse embryos at −196°C by vitrification was reported in an attempted alternative approach to cryostorage. Since then, vitrification techniques have entered more and more the mainstream of animal reproduction as an alternative cryopreservation method to traditional slow-cooling/rapid-thaw protocols. In addition, the last few years have seen a significant resurgence of interest in the potential benefits of vitrification protocols and techniques in human-assisted reproductive technologies. The radical strategy of vitrification results in the total elimination of ice crystal formation, both within the cells being vitrified (intracellular) and in the surrounding solution (extracellular). The protocols for vitrification are very simple. They allow cells and tissue to be placed directly into the cryoprotectant and then plunged directly into liquid nitrogen. To date, however, vitrification as a cryopreservation method has had very little practical impact on human-assisted reproduction, and human preimplantation embryo vitrification is still considered to be largely experimental. Besides the inconsistent survival rates that have been reported, another problem is the wide variety of different carriers and vessels that have been used for vitrification. Second, many different vitrification solutions have been formulated, which has not helped to focus efforts on perfecting a single approach. On the other hand, the reports of successfully completed pregnancies following vitrification at all preimplantation stages is encouraging for further research and clinical implementation. Clearly, however, attention needs to be paid to the inconsistent survival rates following vitrification.
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