Colorado fertility lab now protecting frozen embryos with new thermal imaging system.
UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital06 February 2020
A fertility lab at UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital has become the first customer in the world to add a new thermal imaging system to protect frozen embryos, eggs and sperm for people coping with infertility.
The University of Colorado clinic has never suffered a tank failure. But, Colorado leaders wanted to do everything they could to protect frozen embryos and be sure that a similar catastrophic loss would never happen here.
“We are acutely aware that these tissues in our care represent the hopes and dreams for many people dealing with infertility, for those who stored sperm or eggs before cancer treatments and for young women preserving their eggs for future use,” said Dr. Liesl Nel-Themaat, director of the Colorado lab.
After the tank failures elsewhere, Nel-Themaat and her colleagues began exploring options to further safeguard the nitrogen-cooled tanks at the lab in Aurora. And, the center recently became the first in the world to install a system called Cryo Sentinel.
Each of the tanks already has a built-in temperature gauge, as is standard for tanks at most fertility clinics. But, when the failures occurred in Ohio and California, alarms did not sound until most of the cooling nitrogen had evaporated, hours too late to protect frozen embryos, sperm and eggs.
Cryo Sentinel uses an entirely different system to provide real-time data on the external temperature of the tanks. Multiple infrared cameras aimed at the tanks can immediaely sense temperature changes and sound an alarm if a tank is failing up to 20 hours earlier than the other temperature gauges.
“The Cryo Sentinel triggers an alert the moment the tank integrity is compromised, providing ample time to move any eggs, embryos or sperm to safety,” Nel-Themaat said.
Nel-Themaat can monitor the status of the tanks from anywhere in the world. She routinely checks on them every night before she goes to sleep.
“I’m checking on our patients’ babies every night,” she said.
New technology that can safeguard precious frozen tissues means a great deal to patients, many of whom have already dealt with tough health challenges. Some have been diagnosed with cancer at a young age and choose to store eggs or sperm before going through additional cancer treatments. Others have coped with fertility issues and the decision to go through in vitro fertilization or IVF can be emotionally and physically exhausting.
The prospect of losing precious embryos, eggs or sperm – that represent dreams of future children – is simply unthinkable.
How the Cryo Sentinel system protects frozen embryos