Embryo Adoption

Key Abstracts

Survival, re-expansion and cell survival of human blastocysts following vitrification and warming using two vitrification systems (Lopes et al, RCT, J Assist Reprod Genet, 2015)

Purpose: This study evaluated and compared survival, re-expansion, and percentage of live cells of individual Days 5 and 6 human blastocysts that were vitrified and warmed with the VitKit Freeze/Thaw (Irvine Scientific, CA), or with two protocols using the Global Fast Freeze/Thaw Kits (LifeGlobal, Canada).
Methods: Frozen/thawed Day 2–3 or discarded embryos were cultured to blastocyst (culture day 5–6). Group 1 blastocysts were vitrified with the Vit Kit (n=29) and High Security Vitrification (HSV) devices. Group 2 (n=47) and Group 3 (n=48) blastocysts were cryopreserved with the Global Fast Freeze Kit and 0.25 ml straws, using a direct plunge or a −100 °C holding step, respectively. Group 4 (Controls, n=30) were not vitrified. Blastocysts were subsequently cultured for 24 h, assessed for survival and expansion, and then stained individually with propidium iodide and Hoechst. Live and total cell number was assessed with ImageJ (NIH), and the percentage of live cells calculated for each blastocyst.
Results: The percentage of live cells was not different between vitrified and control (non-vitrified) blastocysts, thus vitrification did not affect cell survival. Survival (following thawing and after 24 h culture), re-expansion, and percentage of live cells were not different for blastocysts vitrified and warmed between the two vitrification/warming kits, or between the two protocols for the Global Fast Freeze/Thaw Kits.
Conclusions: Blastocyst vitrification can be achieved with equal success using simplified protocols and cheaper and easy to load freezing straws, providing simultaneously increased safety, and efficiency with lower cost, when compared with vitrification using specialized embryo vitrification devices.

A Thomistic Analysis of Embryo Adoption (Robertson, ethical analysis, NCBQ, 2014)

Although two documents from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith have given instruction on the moral problems of artificial reproductive technologies and the importance of respecting the lives of cryopreserved embryos, no definitive judgment has been made regarding the possibility of rescuing those embryos by means of embryo transfer into the uterus of a willing woman. This essay offers an analysis of the morality of embryo transfer in light of the ethical principles of St. Thomas Aquinas and argues that the proper use of our generative potential is only safeguarded by being restricted to marital intercourse. The arguments of those who favor the adoption model are considered and rejected in light of a Thomistic analysis of the categories of paternity, maternity, and filiation.

Dignitas Personae and Embryo Adoption: A New Chill Factor? (Grabowski and Gross, ethical analysis, NCBQ, 2010)

The Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith’s Dignitas personae does not offer a definitive rejection of the practice of human embryo adoption as intrinsically evil, but neither does it simply leave the matter an “open question.” The document does indeed oppose the practice, but its reasons for doing so are not clearly stated and seem to be in tension with its own affirmations of the personal dignity of embryos and the goodness of adoption. The Congregation’s opposition is therefore best read as a prudential judgment that embryo adoption cannot be justified in the present circumstances due to the potential for scandal and the cooperation with the fertility industry which it involves.

On “Rescuing” Frozen Embryos: Why the Decision to Do So Is Moral (May, ethical analysis, NCBQ, 2005)

No abstract available.

How can the genetic risks of embryo donation be minimized? Proposed guidelines of the French Federation of CECOS (Centre d’Etude et de Conservation des Oeufs et du Sperme) (Eydoux et al, report, Human Reprod, 2004)

Embryo donation is now an acceptable practice which offers new possibilities to many infertile couples wishing to procreate. In France, embryo donation, like gamete donation, is controlled by law, but its application has been poorly developed because too many questions remained unsolved and because of the lack of practical guidelines. Here we report the results of the debate which took place within the Genetics Commission of the French Federation of CECOS and the proposed recommendations which followed, emphasizing the genetic background to be considered for embryo donation.

Cryopreserved embryos in the United States and their availability for research (Hoffman et al, cross-sectional survey study, Fertil Steril, 2004)

Objective: To determine the number of embryos stored at assisted reproductive technology (ART) clinics in the United States and their current disposition.
Design: A targeted survey instrument sent by the SART–RAND team to all medical practices providing in vitro fertilization services in the United States.
Result(s): The SART–RAND team surveyed all 430 ART practices in the United States. Of these practices, 340 returned surveys for analysis. The data from these surveys were merged with data taken from the 1999 SART dataset, which contains information about practice size and success rates. Responding clinics reported a total of 396,526 embryos in storage as of April 11, 2002. The vast majority of the embryos (88.2%) were targeted for patient use. Small numbers of embryos were available for research, donation, destruction, quality assurance, or other uses.
Conclusion(s): Nearly 400,000 embryos are stored in the United States, the majority of which (88.2%) are targeted for patient use. Few are available for research (2.8%), limiting possible conversion into embryonic stem cell lines.