Cryopreservation of Sperm: Effects on Chromatin and Strategies to Prevent Them

  • Donatella PaoliEmail author
  • Marianna Pelloni
  • Andrea Lenzi
  • Francesco Lombardo
Part of the Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology book series (AEMB, volume 1166)


Cryopreservation is a technique that can keep sperm alive indefinitely, enabling the conservation of male fertility. It involves the cooling of semen samples and their storage at −196 °C in liquid nitrogen. At this temperature all metabolic processes are arrested. Sperm cryopreservation is of fundamental importance for patients undergoing medical or surgical treatments that could induce sterility, such as cancer patients about to undergo genotoxic chemotherapy or radiotherapy, as it offers these patients not only the hope of future fertility but also psychological support in dealing with the various stages of the treatment protocols.

Despite its importance for assisted reproduction technology (ART) and its success in terms of babies born, this procedure can cause cell damage and impaired sperm function. Various studies have evaluated the impact of cryopreservation on chromatin structure, albeit with contradictory results. Some, but not all, authors found significant sperm DNA damage after cryopreservation. However, studies attempting to explain the mechanisms involved in the aetiology of cryopreservation-induced DNA damage are still limited. Some reported an increase in sperm with activated caspases after cryopreservation, while others found an increase in the percentage of oxidative DNA damage. There is still little and contradictory information on the mechanism of the generation of DNA fragmentation after cryopreservation. A number of defensive strategies against cryoinjuries have been proposed in the last decade. Most studies focused on supplementing cryoprotectant medium with various antioxidant molecules, all aimed at minimising oxidative damage and thus improving sperm recovery. Despite the promising results, identification of the ideal antioxidant treatment method is still hampered by the heterogeneity of the studies, which describe the use of different antioxidant regimens at different concentrations or in different combinations. For this reason, additional studies are needed to further investigate the use of antioxidants, individually and in combination, in the cryopreservation of human sperm, to determine the most beneficial conditions for optimal sperm recovery and preservation of fertility.


Semen cryopreservation Sperm DNA damage Male fertility preservation Antioxidant supplementation Cryoprotectant 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Donatella Paoli
    • 1
    Email author
  • Marianna Pelloni
    • 1
  • Andrea Lenzi
    • 1
  • Francesco Lombardo
    • 1
  1. 1.Laboratory of Seminology – Sperm Bank “Loredana Gandini”, Department of Experimental MedicineUniversity of Rome “La Sapienza”RomeItaly

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