Late in August, twin girls were born to a couple who used in vitro fertilization (IVF) to achieve pregnancy. On the surface, this may look like just another of the increasingly common success stories for the IVF industry. But this story has its own unique twist that makes it different from every other IVF pregnancy—the sperm used to fertilize the egg was frozen over 40 years ago, shattering the existing record of 28 years for a successful live birth through cryopreserved sperm.
In the beginning.
In 1971, a Japanese American war hero banked his sperm at a sperm bank where
Russ Bierbaum, a young pioneer in reproductive tissue in cryopreservation, was the acting laboratory technician. The war hero was the "first born" of a proud Japanese family whose culture dictates that the family blood line be carried on through the first born son. Shortly after learning he and his wife would never have children of their own, he discovered none of his siblings were going to be able to preserve the family blood line either. Thatʼs when he started the journey to maintaining his heritage through a surrogate.
Having banked his sperm, he contacted a surrogate agency to find a mother for the
child who would save his familyʼs line. In the years that followed, the dream faded-
surrogates were hard to find and the few who were willing were not able to achieve
successful pregnancies. Yet his hope remained undeterred; as a successful American businessman, he continued to put money into a trust that would one day provide for the
child he remained committed to fathering. Ultimately, Family Formation Law Offices of Michelson and Cohen were able to connect him with a couple who was seeking pregnancy through donor sperm and was eager to become part of a much greater story. In early fall of 2011, a successful pregnancy was announced, followed nearly nine months later wit the birth of twin girls.
According to Russ Bierbaum, a pioneer in the human reproductive tissue specialty, the length of time human reproductive tissue can be frozen and successfully used is still unknown. “Cryobiologists (scientists who study ultra-low temperature storage) have calculated that it could be several thousand years...the birth of these twins brings us one step closer that truth.” Bierbaum, an executive at ReproTech, Ltd.—the nationʼs leader in long-term cryostorage—
“What is gratifying for us,” reports Bierbaum, “is that the systems and processes
weʼve built for over 50 years are now proven. The specimen used in this birth was
collected and preserved over 40 years ago. Since then it has been transferred
across the country four times using our shipping tanks and the procedures we designed
as well as our storage facilities. In my mind, the science of long-term storage and its
efficacy was never in doubt. However, maintaining the integrity and safety of the
specimen through multiple shipments has never been tested to this extent.”
ReproTech, Ltd., is a long-term cryostorage company with four locations
throughout the United States. As the leading provider of long-term cryostorage services in the country, ReproTech had a vested interest in seeing a successful birth of these twins.
“This is a huge seal of approval for the shipping processes, containers, and storage
methods weʼve developed over the years,” said Bierbaum. “Perhaps the biggest
reservation we hear among the IVF docs is their concern about shipping
and handling of precious specimens. Even though we successfully ship thousands of
specimens a year, these births prove that our systems have been effective all along.
Itʼs additional proof that we are the true leaders in the long-term storage and
handling of reproductive tissue.”
The practical application.
Although the birth of these twins from 40 year old sperm is an unusual story, it does
have a more immediate and practical application for cancer patients. People like
Bierbaum have forever been preaching to oncology professionals that long-term
storage is a viable option for children and young men and women to preserve their
fertility prior to cancer treatments that will affect their future fertility. “This proves that
a young male can effectively store semen and confidently use it 20, 30, or 40 years
later to start a family,” said Bierbaum. “Weʼre hoping this kind of news will convince
oncology professionals to be more proactive about discussing future fertility with
their patients and begin the necessary steps to assure that their patients have been informed.”
About ReproTech, Ltd.
ReproTech. Ltd. was founded in 1990 for the purpose of providing long-term cryostorage
services and operates cryostorage facilities in Florida, Minnesota, Nevada and Texas. More information on ReproTech, Ltd is available at http://www.reprotech.com or 888-489-8944. Information specific to its network of fertility clinics that provide Fertility Preservation services to cancer patients may be found at http://www.fertilitypreservation.com.