Fertility Preservation Network Collaborates with National Disease Research Interchange

ReproTech, Ltd. has agreed to facilitate collaboration between fertility and cancer centers within its network of facilities and the National Disease Research Interchange (NDRI), to provide surgical tissue for use in studies to understand human disease.


Staff at participating medical facilities will be provided with NDRI information and consent forms to distribute to their patients who are interested in donating tissues recovered from surgeries that would otherwise be discarded. These patients, through NDRI’s Private Donor Program, will have the opportunity to register as tissue donors for medical research. NDRI will work to maximize all researchers’ access and opportunity to receive donated samples. By working with many researchers, rather than only with a single institution, the chances of new treatments, or cure, is heightened dramatically. NDRI accepts tissue for cancer research, common or rare disease research and also provides healthy samples for scientists to use as ‘control’ samples to compare against affected ones. Tissue may be donated from any type of surgery.

“As scientists continue to advance in finding cures for human disease, donation to benefit research is critical. ReproTech is pleased to work with NDRI and our participating facilities to contribute to the ultimate goal of disease cures”, says Brent Hazelrigg, CEO of ReproTech.

“The collaboration between NDRI and Reprotech may ultimately benefit the lives of millions. NDRI has worked with over 5000 scientists in the United States as well as throughout the globe. When patients have the option to donate these tissues after surgery, they are provided with the ability to potentially advance medical science and contribute to the development of new treatments and cures”, says Lee Ducat, President of NDRI.

The National Disease Research Interchange (NDRI) was founded in 1980 by Lee Ducat, in response to requests from the biomedical community for human tissues to corroborate their animal studies. As a non-profit corporation funded primarily by the National Institutes of Health, NDRI is dedicated to the procurement, preservation and distribution of human cells, tissues and organs to researchers studying diseases such as HIV/AIDS, diabetes, cystic fibrosis, retinitis pigmentosa, Alzheimer’s disease and over 100 other diseases. Since 1980, NDRI has supplied over 300,000 tissue samples to over 5,000 researchers in the United States and internationally. To learn more about NDRI, or about registering as a donor, please call 800-222-NDRI(6374) or visit www.ndriresource.org.

41 Years Ago, A Sperm Donation. Today, Twins.

May 2, 2013 – World Record for Birth through Cryopreserved Sperm is Broken

As a world record is broken, hope comes alive.


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 with a sperm bank where Russ Bierbaum, a young pioneer in reproductive tissue cryopreservation, was the acting laboratory technician. The war hero was the “first born” of a proud Japanese family whose culture dictates 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. That’s 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 family’s blood line. In the years that followed, the dream faded—surrogates were hard to find and the few who were willing were unable 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 Michelsen 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 late fall of 2011, a successful pregnancy was announced, followed nearly nine months later with 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 to that truth.” Bierbaum, an executive at ReproTech, Ltd.—the nation’s leader in long-term cryostorage—has played a key role in this particular pregnancy from the beginning. As previously mentioned, Bierbaum worked as a lab technician back in 1971 at the sperm bank where the donor’s sperm was first frozen. In the 40 years since, his organizations have handled much of the shipping and storage of the specimen.

“What is gratifying for us,” reports Bierbaum, “is that the systems and processes we’ve 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 the successful birth of these twins. “This is a huge seal of approval for the shipping processes, containers, and storage methods we’ve developed over the years,” said Bierbaum. “Perhaps the biggest reservation we hear among the IVF docs is their concern about the 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. It’s 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. “We’re 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.”

The technical article related to this story, “Live births from frozen human semen stored for 40 years” was published in the April online issue of the Journal of Assisted Reproduction and Genetics.  The final publication is available at link.springer.com.