Sperm Processing and Cryopreservation (SLS337)

10 credits

Aim of this module

This module will provide trainees with the knowledge and understanding of the different reasons males seek fertility preservation, the principles and practice of cryopreservation and associated regulatory requirements.This module will consider the techniques of sperm processing and cryopreservation critically evaluating the principles, practices and risks alongside the evidence base to optimise the chance of having healthy offspring. The trainee will explore ethical and safety issues including patient, partners and family perspectives and what is required of a clinical scientist by the Health and Care Professions Council. They will understand and gain experience in sperm preparation and insemination methodologies. The trainees will also learn how to report results from freezing and thawing. Trainees should gain insight into patient perspectives and information sharing with patients and how well this is understood.

  1. Review a set of case notes and recommend a patient’s pathway, including treatment options based upon clinical presentation.
  2. Perform sperm preparation, cryopreservation and thawing, post thaw preparation within the statutory and regulatory framework.
  3. Handle gametes correctly to maintain viability and perform different methods of sperm preparation techniques within the statutory and regulatory framework.
  4. Perform quality control checks within the laboratory and the cryofacility.
  5. Analyse key performance indicators with respect to defined outcomes then identify, troubleshoot and solve any problems.
  6. Provide relevant information on results of banking attempts to patients / prospective donors.
Number Work-based learning outcome Title Knowledge
1 1,4,5,6

Obtain consent from a range of patients referred to Andrology Services.

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2 2,3,4

Maintain and select culture systems.

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3 1,3,4

Perform and interpret swim-up techniques and density gradient separation of sperm samples of different quality, including:

  • antisperm antibody-positive samples
  • retrograde samples;
  • severe oligoasthenozoospermic samples (for cryopreservation);
  • frozen samples, including donor samples.
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4 2,3

Label and perform witnessing prior to cryopreservation and following thawing/warming of semen.

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5 2,3,4

Perform sperm cryopreservation Correctly use and handle liquid nitrogen and associated cryogenic equipment.

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6 2,3,4,5

Thaw semen samples and compare pre-freeze and post-thaw parameters.

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7 2

Release and receive cryopreserved gametes and embryos to other centres.

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8 2

Fill and label a nitrogen shipping container.

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9 2,5

Work safely in the laboratory to reduce the risk of transmission of infections, e.g. blood-borne viruses.

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You must complete
2 Case-based discussion(s)
2 of the following DOPS / OCEs
Assessment Title Type
Prepare sperm from semen in compliance with relevant local practice by gradient and swim-up methods DOPS
Culture prepared sperm and control media for 24h to assess aseptic preparation technique DOPS
Perform QC checks within a cryofacility DOPS
Perform slow freezing of sperm samples and review how method optimization may improve survival / sperm quality. DOPS
Correctly complete HFEA consents for sperm storage and use with a patient DOPS
Provide results of a sperm banking event to a patient / donor. DOPS
Review a number of sets of case notes and recommend patient pathways including treatment options based upon these. OCE
Present to the laboratory team a summary of the dangers of liquid nitrogen use and how to mitigate these. OCE
Evaluate the potential effects on a potential sperm donor / banking patient of unexpected findings about their fertility, particularly with regard to azoospermia. Discuss with your team how these relate to best practice locally. OCE

Important information

The academic parts of this module will be detailed and communicated to you by your university. Please contact them if you have questions regarding this module and its assessments. The module titles in your MSc may not be exactly identical to the work-based modules shown in the e-portfolio. Your modules will be aligned, however, to ensure that your academic and work-based learning are complimentary.

Learning Outcomes

  1. Describe and critically evaluate the principles, practices and risks associated with sperm processing including strategies to reduce risk.
  2. Critically review, discuss and evaluate the use of intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection versus other treatments for male infertility.
  3. Explain the principles of the cryobiology of sperm, evaluating methods for freezing and thawing.
  4. Discuss statutory and regulatory requirements for sperm processing and cryopreservation.
  5. Justify professional codes of practice in relation to risk, scientific judgement and patient perspectives.
  6. Discuss and debate the ethical and medical dimensions to fertility preservation.
  7. Discuss the implications of consent anomalies.
  8. Discuss the minimum and optimum requirements for operating an andrology cryofacility.
  9. Analyse working practices to reduce the risk of transmission of infections, e.g. blood-borne viruses.

Indicative Content

Sperm Processing

  • Micromanipulation equipment and methodology
  • Principles of intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) – (physical practice / performing is not required as this falls within Embryology).
  • Risks and regulation associated with ICSI

 Intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection

  • Indications
  • Contraindications
  • Procedure and different modalities (IMSI / PICSI)
  • Risks
  • Laboratory processes to optimise sperm location

 Cryobiology

  • Cryobiology, including the physical and chemical processes occurring during cryopreservation and thawing
  • Properties of cryoprotectants
  • Handling of liquid nitrogen and the appropriate health and safety regulations and
  • Thermodynamics of slow freezing and vitrification
  • Physiological changes that occur in gametes and embryos during cryopreservation including the associated risks and strategies to reduce risk.

 Ethical, statutory and regulatory issues (sperm processing and cryopreservation)

  • Regulatory issues with regard to cryostorage
  • Counselling & breaking and managing bad news
  • Safety, Audit and cryofacility operation
  • Posthumous treatment
  • Legal fatherhood
  • Correct and incorrect completion of HFEA Consent forms, including background knowledge of example legal cases and
  • Regulatory requirements for CE marked medical

 Ethical dimensions to fertility preservation

  • Informed consent in special situations
  • Patients undergoing treatments including:
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiotherapy
  • Life support
  • Fertility preservation in high-risk occupations (e.g. military)
  • Fertility [reservation as an option before gender-reassignment
  • Fertility preservation in Pre-pubertal children, options and medical
  • Posthumous treatment, individual, treated female, child and societal perspectives

 Analysis of Working Practices

  • Effects for storage and fertility treatment for serodiscordant/concordant couples for HIV, HBV and
  • Treatment and storage options for serodiscordant couples
  • The importance of participation in training, supervision and mentoring