Loading equine oocytes with cryoprotective agents captured with a finite element method model
Cryopreservation can be used to store equine oocytes for extended periods so that they can be used in artificial reproduction technologies at a desired time point. It requires use of cryoprotective agents (CPAs) to protect the oocytes against freezing injury. The intracellular introduction of CPAs, however, may cause irreversible osmotic damage. The response of cells exposed to CPA solutions is governed by the permeability of the cellular membrane towards water and the CPAs. In this study, a mathematical mass transport model describing the permeation of water and CPAs across an oocyte membrane was used to simulate oocyte volume responses and concomitant intracellular CPA concentrations during the exposure of oocytes to CPA solutions. The results of the analytical simulations were subsequently used to develop a phenomenological finite element method (FEM) continuum model to capture the response of oocytes exposed to CPA solutions with spatial information. FEM simulations were used to depict spatial differences in CPA concentration during CPA permeation, namely at locations near the membrane surface and towards the middle of the cell, and to capture corresponding changes in deformation and hydrostatic pressure. FEM simulations of the multiple processes occurring during CPA loading of oocytes are a valuable tool to increase our understanding of the mechanisms underlying cryopreservation outcome.