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Since the birth of the first baby by in vitro fertilization in 1978, more than 9 million children have been born worldwide using medically assisted reproductive treatments. Fertilization naturally takes place in the maternal oviduct where unique physiological conditions enable the early healthy development of the embryo. During this dynamic period of early development major waves of epigenetic reprogramming, crucial for the normal fate of the embryo, take place. Increasingly, over the past 20 years concerns relating to the increased incidence of epigenetic anomalies in general, and genomic-imprinting disorders in particular, have been raised following assisted reproduction technology (ART) treatments. Epigenetic reprogramming is particularly susceptible to environmental conditions during the periconceptional period and non-physiological conditions such as ovarian stimulation, in vitro fertilization and embryo culture, as well as cryopreservation procedure, might have the potential to independently or collectively contribute to epigenetic dysregulation. Therefore, this narrative review offers a critical reappraisal of the evidence relating to the association between embryo cryopreservation and potential epigenetic regulation and the consequences on gene expression together with long-term consequences for offspring health and wellbeing. Current literature suggests that epigenetic and transcriptomic profiles are sensitive to the stress induced by vitrification, in terms of osmotic shock, temperature and pH changes, and toxicity of cryoprotectants, it is therefore, critical to have a more comprehensive understanding and recognition of potential unanticipated iatrogenic-induced perturbations of epigenetic modifications that may or may not be a consequence of vitrification.
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