The Download: frozen egg transportation, and Roblox’s expressive avatars


Like me, my eggs were flying economy class, writes Anna Louie Sussman. My dog Stewie and I were in seat 8D, while 12 of my cryopreserved oocytes, four straws of three eggs each, had a window seat further back. They were ensconced in a cryogenic storage flask packed into a metal suitcase next to Paolo, the courier overseeing their passage from a fertility clinic in Bologna, Italy, to the clinic in Madrid, Spain, where I would be undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF) in several weeks’ time.

The shipping of gametes and embryos around the world is a growing part of a booming global fertility sector. As people have children later in life, the need for fertility treatment increases each year. The ability to move eggs, sperm, and embryos across borders allows tens of thousands of patients to access this medical care if it’s unavailable in their own country because of legal restrictions or prohibitive pricing.

In my case, I had frozen eggs in Bologna in 2016, and again in Madrid two years later, because it would have taken me several more years to save up for a cycle in New York.

After paying for storage costs for six and four years, respectively, at 40 I was ready to try to get pregnant. Transporting the Bolognese batch served to literally put all my eggs in one basket. Read the full story.

Read more: 

  • How Silicon Valley hatched a plan to turn blood into human eggs. A well-connected startup company is trying to rewrite the rules of reproduction. Read the full story.
  • Trans men’s eggs have been matured in the lab—and could help them have children. A new technique means eggs can be grown from the ovaries of transgender men, even after years of testosterone therapy. Read the full story.
  • Inside the race to make human sex cells in the lab. Scientists might soon be able to create eggs and sperm from skin and blood cells. What will that mean? Read the full story.

Roblox’s avatars are about to get more expressive

The news: Roblox users will soon be able to give their avatars facial expressions that mimic the player’s own, the platform announced at its annual Roblox Developer Conference last week. The update would mean users could smile, wink, or scrunch their forehead, and their avatar would mimic them in real time. Eyes could scan, heads could shake, and eyebrows and ears could wiggle with the same results.

Why it matters: The online game platform allows visitors to either play games or create them, attracting 52.2 million users each day. The rich, varied virtual worlds created on the site have been considered a precursor to what we might see and experience in the metaverse, with opportunities for connection with other people and personalized avatars that players can use across games.

What’s next: Soon, Roblox says, users will be able to speak directly with other avatars as in other multiplayer video games. In short, the changes might blend our real-world human experience with that of the metaverse and make avatars more like ourselves—for better or worse. Read the full story.

—Tanya Basu



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