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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — There’s been a big push to make fertility clinics safer after an Ohio fertility clinic lost thousands of frozen eggs and embryos.
The focus is on those tanks where embryos are stored in liquid nitrogen. Scientists are working on ways to make sure they’re always working properly and maintaining a safe temperature.
Amber and Elliott Ash always wanted a family. Since he battled bone cancer, they turned to IVF, using his frozen sperm to conceive their 3-year-old son Ethan.
“It was always a goal to give our son a sibling,” says Amber Ash.
However, last March, the Ash family learned their embryos were damaged in a tank malfunction at a Cleveland area fertility clinic.
“We don’t have those embryos anymore, we lost those chances,” says Elliot Ash.
After the incident in Cleveland, many fertility clinics increased security and safety measures. One developed a measurement system for their fertilization tanks.
“We have the tank with the temperature probe and the manual checks just like every other tank. In addition, underneath each of the tanks is a special that is continuously monitoring the weight of the tanks,” explains Dr. Zev Williams of the Columbia University Fertility Center.
A study from Columbia shows measuring the storage tanks weight can detect problems more efficiently than measuring its temperature. If the tank’s nitrogen levels fall, the weight will rise, triggering an alarm.
Dana Severini, 36, froze her eggs five years ago. She is now 14 weeks pregnant and has two more embryos stored with the extra safety precautions.
“It lets you have a piece of mind that you do have a future,” says Severini.
Researchers say, in some cases, this new monitoring system can detect issues with a tank up to six weeks in advance. Those safety measures provide potential new parents with some much-needed peace of mind.