Our questions to Cryoport about cryo shipping

When you are beginning your fertility journey, it soon becomes apparent that there are multiple words, phrases, names of tests, services and techniques that are completely alien to you

This is why we always tell our readers to ask for help if they don’t understand something, and to ask questions, no matter how silly they think they might sound. We turned to the team at Cryoport to help us understand the terminology around cryo shipping.

What exactly is Cryo Shipping?

Cryo shipping is the process of moving your gametes (eggs and sperm) and embryos to a new clinic location.

Here at  Cryoport, we transport your highly valuable reproductive cells in a modified dry shipper (container). The shipper is pre-charged (cooled) to maintain *cryogenic temperature throughout the entire journey. All Cryoport dry shippers are modified and are lined with foam. The foam is used to absorb the liquid nitrogen to ensure that the dry shipper maintains *cryogenic temperature throughout the journey.

We use specialized medical logistic partners to transport your precious cargo to your specified location – this can either be performed via road or air, depending on the location. All dry shippers (travelling via air) are approved by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

(*When in a laboratory, all cryopreserved reproductive cells are stored in cryogenic tanks at cryogenic temperature below -190’C, using liquid nitrogen (LN2). If the laboratory uses liquid nitrogen vapor tanks, the temperature will vary between -160’C and -190’C.)

How do you make sure the dry shipper maintains the correct temperature?

All Cryoport dry shippers will get charged with liquid nitrogen (LN2) for 24 hours before the shipping day – the foam inside the dry shipper absorbs the liquid nitrogen.  The initial ‘dry weight’ of the shipper is entered into our software as well as the end ‘wet weight’.  This data allows us to calculate how long the dry shipper can maintain temperature, for a set period.

What does a ‘validated’ dry shipper mean?

All Cryoport dry shippers are validated – we use the International Safe Transit Association (ISTA) testing standards.  This is a standard of test procedures used to define how packages should perform to ensure protection of their contents.

How safe is the dry shipper?  Is there any risk of damage to the gametes or embryos?

With logistics, delays and other issues can occur.  Within Cryoport it is our role to mitigate as much of this risk as possible.

This is where requalification comes into play – it’s an interesting subject and means many different things to many different people.  At Cryoport, we requalify the dry shippers after each journey, we perform Normal Evaporation Rate (NER) tests as part of our requalification process and these are used to determine the static and dynamic hold time of the shipper, these measurements (data) prove that the shipper is a trustworthy unit to travel a certain distance whilst maintaining cryogenic temperature.

As part of the NER tests, we check for vacuum integrity, hairline fractures as well as shock damage to the dry shipper.  Once completed, all dry shippers are cleaned.  *Please note that some companies requalify once a year, whilst others do not requalify at all.

How are the gametes and embryos packaged?

Sperm is often shipped in containers called vials.  And oocytes and embryos are often shipped in straws.

How is the dry shipper labelled so that other people know the contents are precious?

At Cryoport, we only partner with specialized medical logistic companies, who know how to handle our precious shipments.  Our dry shippers are clearly labelled to avoid X-Ray and our partners are all trained on the protocol.

You hear about people losing luggage on really trusted airlines, so how can you be sure that people’s precious gametes and embryos won’t get lost?

We use a smart data logger system on all our shipments; it constantly monitors in ‘near-real time’ and the server updates every 5 minutes.  Our software monitors GPS, the tilt of the shipper, humidity, internal and external temperature, shock events, and pressure.  The data is available to both the sending and receiving clinic during and after the shipment

Do you offer insurance?

Insurance options are available.  The coverage ensures that the dry shipper maintains cryogenic temperature throughout the journey – force majeure is excluded (natural and unavoidable disasters). The coverage does not ensure viability of the gametes and embryos, this can only be determined once the samples are warmed or thawed in a laboratory setting.

Learn more about cryo shipping:

What do you do with your gametes if you want to change clinic?


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