A Twist On The Typical Cold Chain: Frozen IVF Materials

While most people realize that cold chains of refrigerated shipping containers and trucks bring us goods like seafood and vaccines, few people give much thought the fact that cold chains are also used to transport embryos, eggs, and sperm around the world to be used for in vitro fertilization. These days, surrogacy laws mean that the eggs and sperm used for a particular baby might actually come from different continents, and this cargo is considered the most precious of all by expectant parents.

Frozen cells need to be kept at extremely low temperatures to stop the cellular processes; -240 degrees Fahrenheit is fairly typical. Using liquid nitrogen to accomplish this is a complicated process that requires a lot of precision and care to prevent the gas from expanding in volume and exploding. A calcium silicate sponge is often employed to absorb liquid nitrogen and slowly release it over a period of ten days. Specially equipped insulated containers are used, along with sensors that keep track of pressure, light exposure, and temperature. GPS is also used to track these shipments during transport, and recipients pay a premium for this.

Making A Baby Is Now A Global Affair

The CEO of Cryoport, a company that ships frozen IVF materials, says that around 80 percent of his firm’s IVF business comes directly from parents, while 20 percent comes from clinics. Many of the parents find his company from word of mouth or online forums and searches.

The process of surrogacy is quite expensive in the US and subject to varying and often confusing individual state laws. This has prompted many parents to look abroad. Donated eggs can be obtained much more affordably from places like Cyprus, Ukraine, South Africa, or Spain, for example. As a result, making a baby can now be considered a truly global affair for some parents.