Latest News

IVF in Namibia

When Namibia is mentioned, perhaps the first thing that comes to mind is a beautiful rather remote African country. With a population of just 2.1 million, and containing the large Namib Desert, the country is one of the least densely populated in the world, but it enjoys high political, economic and social stability.  So we were proud to discover that a new IVF laboratory there, based within the Mediclinic complex in the capital Windhoek, has two of our BT37 units. 

The Windhoek IVF clinic opened its doors in January 2017 with state of the art equipment in the IVF lab section. The personnel consist of top quality surgeons and scientists and it has a close liaison with the Aevitas Clinic in Cape Town, so its patients benefit from having access to the combined knowledge and expertise of the whole team for a collective opinion. The clinic started from a concept of Prof Igno Siebert and Dr Riaan van der Colf (pictured here) a few years ago, recognising that such an assisted fertility service did not exist in Namibia. Prof Siebert is a part of the well-known Aevitas Clinic in Cape Town, who also use Planer's BT37s. Prof Igno Siebert started  visiting Windhoek four times a year, consulting and performing laparoscopic surgery locally. Dr Riaan van der Colf started in a private O&G practice in 1990 in Windhoek after completing his postgraduate studies at University Stellenbosch, RSA.

More information:

Cryopreservation of ovarian tissue for fertility preservation in young girls

Following on the news of the birth in London to a 24 year old woman from implanted cryopreserved ovarian tissue taken when she was nine years old - a world first - a paper has just been published in Human Fertility on the background needs for such preservation. The study, by Jensen, Yding Andersen (pictured here) and others, looks at the need for ovarian tissue cryopreservation in girls undergoing radiation treatment and concludes it should be recommended to all young girls, who present a high risk of developing ovarian insufficiency or infertility following high doses of chemotherapy and/or irradiation. The cohort study examined a total of 176 Danish girls under 18 years of age who had received ovarian tissue cryopreservation performed over a period of 15 years

The latest birth in London was to a Mrs Al Matrooshi who had needed chemotherapy before receiving a bone marrow transplant. As a precautionary measure her right ovary was removed in an operation in Leeds and the tissue frozen by Professor Helen Picton and her team. The procedure to store the tissue in 2001 was done before any birth from ovarian tissue preservation had occurred, the first such birth being in Belgium 2004. Both the first and the latest births from frozen ovarian tissue used Planer programmable freezers.

Prof Picton, who oversaw the tissue-freezing at Leeds University, reported to the BBC, that in Europe alone, several thousand girls and young women have had ovarian tissue frozen and stored. The paper from the Copenhagen researchers concludes that "Although it cannot be predicted which girls will become infertile or develop premature ovarian insufficiency following intensive chemotherapy or irradiation, patients who are at high risk should be offered ovarian tissue cryopreservation. This includes girls who are planned to receive either high doses of alkylating agents, conditioning regimen before stem cell transplantation, total body irradiation or high radiation doses to the craniospinal, abdominal or pelvic area."

Worldwide more than 60 babies have been born from women who had their fertility restored, but Moaza is the first case from pre-pubertal freezing and the first from a patient who had treatment for beta thalassaemia.

Read more

Dr Ye Yinghui - part of the IVF team at the Women's Hospital, Hangzhou

Dr Ye Yinghui was part of the team at the Women's Hospital, Hangzhou, China who carried out an evaluation study on two different formulations of slow-freezing media for cleavage stage embryo cryopreservation. The work was funded by the China Natural Science Foundation and China National Key Technology Support Program. Dr Ye graduated from Zhejiang University School of Medicine in 1995, got her PhD in 2008 and studied gamete and early stage embryo development  in Japan as a research fellow in Akita University via a medical scholarship.  Currently she works on  IVF-ET, ICSI, embryo freezing and Recovery, PGD etc and she uses a Planer Kryo 360 freezer.

Some IVF labs prefer to cryopreserve pronuclear stage and cleavage stage embryos using conventional slow-freezing. Dr Ye and her co authors say that in their clinic, they consider slow freezing more practical. Additionally, using the new Vitrolife media especially formulated for slow freezing, their study found that embryo survival rate increased as did the clinical pregnancy rate per embryo transfer.  Freezing and thawing cleavage stage embryos using the modified protocol and new formula - MOPS-buffered media containing amino acids - the researchers found that they could achieve the same high survival rates with traditional slow-freezing method as with vitrification. The improved level of dehydration combined with the cooling and warming rates of their protocol resulted in a combination which gave excellent survival.

Dr Ye and the team conclude " ... we can continue using our freezing machine and can spend time on other things in the lab while the machine is running. For the time being, we find slow freezing with this modified method very effective"  and it frees up time during busy working days.

Dr Ye is also a committee member of the Medical Genetic Study Group of China Medical Association, the Zhejiang Medical Genetic Study Association, and Specialist of the Zhejiang ART Quality Control Society. She has authored and co-authored more than ten SCI articles.  


Unique birth from ovarian tissue frozen in 2001

Kryo 360 Controlled Rate FreezerMrs Moaza Al Matrooshi, from Dubai, gave birth in London on 13 December, after surgeons implanted ovarian tissue taken when she was nine years old - before puberty - and this appears to be a world first. Mrs Al Matrooshi was born with an inherited blood disorder and needed chemotherapy before receiving a bone marrow transplant at Great Ormond Street Hospital, London. This chemotherapy would render her infertile and as a precautionary measure her right ovary was removed in 2001 in an operation in Leeds and the tissue frozen by Professor Helen Picton and her team.

As with many such ovarian preservations, the tissue was frozen down in a Planer controlled rate freezer before being stored at liquid nitrogen temperatures. It was mixed with cryopreservatives and controlled rate frozen so that the sample stayed viable and undamaged after the liquid nitrogen storage temperatures experienced.

Prof Picton, Scientific Director of the Leeds Centre For Reproductive Medicine, says that the procedure to store the tissue in 2001 was done before any birth from ovarian tissue preservation. The first such birth occurred in Louvain, Belgium under Prof Donnez in 2004 - again using Planer programmable freezers. Prof Picton, who oversaw the tissue-freezing at Leeds University, reported to the BBC, that in Europe alone, several thousand girls and young women have now had ovarian tissue frozen and stored. 

Mrs Al Matrooshi's ovary remained frozen until 2015 when it was sent to Denmark, where the transplant took place. The surgeons there transplanted five slivers of the ovarian tissue back into her body – four were stitched on to a failed left ovary and one on to the side of the uterus. After the transplant hormone levels returned to normal Mrs Al Matrooshi began ovulating and fertility was restored. IVF was undertaken at the Portland hospital to maximise the chance of pregnancy, resulting in the production of three embryos, two of which were implanted. Worldwide more than sixty babies have been born from women who had their fertility restored, but Moaza is the first case from pre-pubertal freezing and the first from a patient who had treatment for beta thalassaemia.

More information

Forty years on....Planer freezers

In the 1950s fowl sperm was first cryopreserved by a UK team led by Christopher Polge; the process was repeated in humans giving successful pregnancies. But the rapid immersion in liquid nitrogen gave viability problems for some samples – at that time embryos and bone marrow. As understanding of the freezing mechanism grew the importance of controlled or slow freezing for post thaw viability developed. In 1963, Peter Mazur, in the U.S., showed that damaging intracellular ice could be avoided if cooling was slow enough to permit sufficient water to leave the cell during freezing. Cryoprotectants, initially glycerol, protected the cells from freezing injury – both direct damage from ice crystal formation and from the increase in concentration of solutes. The controlled cooling process let these biological samples equilibrate osmotically in cryoprotectant via a series of cooling stages before their transfer to liquid nitrogen for long term storage; the first birth from frozen bovine embryo was reported in 1972 - using an early Planer machine.

Working with Prof David Pegg, Planer introduced controlled rate freezing equipment in the 1970s, first for animal embryos, with Professors Rawson and Wilmut pioneering the area, and then after 1984 in human IVF. In that year Drs Alan Trounson and Carl Wood in Melbourne helped Zoe Leyland into the world via a Planer freezer and she became the first human born from a frozen embryo. Two years later, April 1986, the first successful attempt at freezing and thawing of a human oocyte was reported in the Lancet by Dr Christopher Chen et al: a twin pregnancy was achieved using DMSO protectant and freezing in a Planer machine down from -7C to -36C followed by rapid freezing to -196C before storage in liquid nitrogen.  Research into freezing other material continued and in 1991 arterial graft material was frozen successfully for the first time and in 2004 the longest successful storage of sperm was reported by doctors from St. Mary's Hospital and Christie Hospital in Manchester, UK who worked with a couple who conceived using sperm frozen down in a Planer controlled rate freezer, and then stored for twenty one years.

In 1997 a patient, Ms Touirat, in Belgium had parts of her ovaries removed and controlled frozen in a Planer machine before beginning treatment for Hodgkin's lymphoma which would necessarily leave her infertile. In 2003, free of the cancer, a Belgian team under Prof Donnez thawed and reimplanted and she became the first woman in the world to give birth to a healthy baby following such a graft.  More lately, in 2014, Prof Bruce Campbell of Nottingham, UK, reported (in ‘Human Reproduction’) he had successfully frozen and transplanted a whole ovary - the first frozen organ from an adult large mammal successfully transplanted.

There are some 10,000 Planer temperature control machines that have been sold around the world since the company started in 1974. Used for freezing precious samples in use for human, animal and cell biology – samples like oocytes, skin, blood products, bone marrow, embryos, sperm, stem cells, tissue they are found in hospitals, veterinary practices and research laboratories everywhere.

India's first and largest stem cell bank...with nine Planer freezers

Dr. C. Padhiyar, Lab Director at LifeCell, who have taken delivery of their ninth freezer.

LifeCell was established in 2004 and within a short span of twelve years has grown into India’s largest Cord Blood and Stem Cell repository with state-of-the-art laboratory at its headquarters in Chennai and a satellite laboratory in Gurgaon, near Delhi. The company has recently added four more Planer Kryo750-30 controlled rate freezers to their laboratory in Chennai to meet the increasing demand of freezing their sample intake. Life Cell now have nine Planer Freezers - two of the Kryo 560-16 and seven of Kryo 750-30 models. Our long standing Indian distributor, Indus Instruments, helped the customer through the purchase and installation process. The principals of Indus - Mr. P. P. Venkitachalam and Mr. D. Ravi - have between them more than four decades of experience in supporting instrumentation.

The freezers are working twenty four seven freezing the increasing number of cell samples. The Planer CRFs are used to freeze these samples in vials and micro cassettes and use protocols optimised by the user via Planer's versatile Delta T software. LifeCell provides comprehensive Stem Cell Solutions including Menstrual Stem Cell banking - the only banking of its kind in India. The repository has now a stored collection of more than 200,000 units and is steadily marching towards a target of 275,000 in the near future.  

More information

Stem Cell Bio 9th -11th November 2016 in St. Petersburg

The Pokrovsky Stem Cell Bank LLC, users of Planer equipment, is co-organising the "International Conference - Stem Cell Bio 2016", in St. Petersburg, Russia on 9th -11th of November. The Pokrovsky Medical Centre is a stem cell bank and clinic in operation for some ten years now and it is a multi-disciplinary clinic with world-class medical services for both outpatient and in-patients. Both the medical centre and stem cell bank are located in St. Petersburg, and it has offices in Tver, Novgorod and Murmansk.

Together with BioVitrum LLC - a Russian biological distributor - Pokrovsky will host "Stem Cell Bio 2016" with the theme "Fundamental Science as the basis of Cell Technologies". The organisers announce that while stem cell research has became the focus area of modern regenerative medicine and the major growth option for it via a lot of promising results of pre clinical and worldwide clinical trials, better future development of regenerative medicine needs multi discipline events between biologists and practicing doctors. Integration is required between the fundamental and applied sciences. This is the main goal of SCB 2016  - to create such a platform for exchange between the various experts in the field of stem cell biology. The scientific program will reflect current investigations in the fundamental functioning mechanisms of stem cells with themes such as:

  • Genetic and epigenetic mechanisms of differentiation and reprogramming
  • Mesenchymal stem cells
  • Haematopoietic stem cells
  • Induced pluripotent stem cells
  • Resident stem cells
  • Stem cells for modelling pathological processes
  • Cell technologies for clinical application with plenary sessions involving leading scientists from Russia, Norway, Latvia and more.

Poster sessions and abstracts are to be published in the Conference document and there will be break-out discussions on medical, legal and ethical aspects of cell products applications.

The Pokrovsky stem cell bank is the largest bank for personal and public storage of cord blood stem cells in Russia, it also specialises in gene technologies and DNA work. It has thirteen biotech laboratories, equipped to the latest standards for biological engineering; the Pokrovsky team includes 98 highly qualified specialists with 11 patents on inventions concerning cord blood cells, fibroblasts, bone marrow and adipose tissue.

More Info:


New media improves embryo cryo survival rates to those obtained with vitrification

An article in the latest issue of the Journal of Assisted Reproduction and Genetics evaluates two different formulations of slow-freezing solutions for cleavage stage embryo cryopreservation. The authors, Dr L Fang et al, from the Zhejiang University School of Medicine in China investigated whether improved survival rates could be achieved using a new formulation of media. The aim was to investigate if survival rates similar to those obtained with vitrification could be obtained in their clinic with this new composition of solutions from Vitrolife AB from Sweden for freezing and thawing of cleavage stage embryos.

The evaluation was in two parts - the first being a retrospective analysis of results obtained after freezing and thawing day 3 embryos from 400 women using an older formulation of cryopreservation solutions. These results were compared with those from 108 women where cryopreservation had been performed using the new composition solution from Vitrolife. In total, 2274 embryos from 897 patients were thawed using the old formulation of solutions while 1273 embryos from 542 patients were frozen and thawed using the new solutions.

With the new media - FreezeKit Cleave™ and ThawKit Cleave™ Vitrolife  - the survival rate increased from 82.1 to 94.4 % and the complete embryo survival rate increased from 54.9 to 81.3 %. The implantation rate, clinical pregnancy rate per embryo transfer, and per cycle were 28.2, 45.2, and 43.7 %, respectively, using the old formulations of cryo solutions. With the new solutions, the results reached 33.7, 54.1, and 54.1 %, respectively - the differences being statistically significant. The new solutions were specially formulated to add new base medium composition, a modification of a G-Series culture medium containing amino acids for support of embryo viability and with the addition of MOPS buffer for physiological pH maintenance plus hyaluronan, which has been shown to increase embryo survival after cryopreservation.

The team, from the Department of Reproductive Endocrinology, Women's Hospital, Hangzhou, use a Planer freezer for slow freezing, in preference to vitrification methods. Traditionally with vitrification, higher survival rates were obtained compared to standard slow-freezing procedures and it was initially introduced as a quick and easy cryopreservation method. But many clinics find vitrification time consuming and prefer to cryopreserve pronuclear-stage and cleavage stage embryos using the conventional slow-freezing method. The authors conclude: “In our clinic, we consider slow freezing more practical but wanted to improve the results, especially the survival rate after thawing of the embryos. With the new formulation of the solutions for freezing and thawing of cleavage stage embryos and the modified protocol, we have found that we can achieve the same high survival rates with the traditional slow-freezing method as with vitrification. We can continue using our freezing machine and can spend time on other things in the lab while the machine is running".

You can read the abstract at

More information