The study was designed to evaluate the efficiency of a modified (sealed) open pulled straw (mOPS) method for cryopreserving rabbit embryos by vitrification or rapid freezing. An additional objective was to determine whether the mOPS method could cause the vitrification of a cryoprotectant solution generally used in rapid freezing procedures. Two consecutive experiments of in vitro and in vivo viability were performed. In Experiment 1, the in vitro viability of rabbit embryos at the morula, compacted morula, early blastocyst and blastocyst stages was assessed after exposure to a mixture of 25% glycerol and 25% ethylene glycol (25GLY:25EG: vitrification solution) or 4.5 M (approximately 25% EG) ethylene glycol and 0.25 M sucrose (25EG:SUC: rapid freezing solution). Embryos were loaded into standard straws or mOPS and plunged directly into liquid nitrogen. The mOPS consisted of standard straws that were heat-pulled, leaving a wide opening for the cotton plug and a narrow one for loading embryos by capillarity. The embryos were aspirated into the mOPS in a column positioned between two columns of cryoprotectant solution separated by air bubbles. The mOPS were then sealed with polyvinyl-alcohol (PVA) sealing powder. The vitrification 25GLY:25EG solution became vitrified both in standard straws and mOPS, whereas the rapid freezing 25EG:SUC solution crystallized in standard straws, but vitrified in mOPS. The total number of embryos cryopreserved was 1695. Embryos cryopreserved after exposure to each solution in mOPS showed higher rates (88.2%) of survival immediately after thawing and removal of the cryoprotectant than those cryopreserved in 0.25 ml standard straws (78.8%; P <0.0001). After culture, the developmental stage of the cryopreserved embryos significantly affected the rates of development to the expanded blastocyst stage. Regardless of the cryoprotectant used, lower rates of in vitro development were obtained when the embryos were cryopreserved at the morula stage, and higher rates achieved using embryos at blastocyst stages. Based on the results of Experiment 1, the second experiment was performed on blastocysts using the mOPS method. Experiment 2 was designed to evaluate the in vivo viability of cryopreserved rabbit blastocysts loaded into mOPS after exposure to 25GLY:25EG or 25EG:SUC. Embryos cryopreserved in mOPS and 25GLY:25EG solution gave rise to rates of live offspring (51.7%) not significantly different to those achieved using fresh embryos (58.5%). In conclusion, the modified (sealed) OPS method allows vitrification of the cryoprotectant solution at a lower concentration of cryoprotectants than that generally used in vitrification procedures. Rabbit blastocysts cryopreserved using a 25GLY:25EG solution in mOPS showed a similar rate of in vivo development after thawing to that shown by fresh embryos.
|Publication status||Published - 2000|