Researchers have successfully used a pioneering method to stimulate ovulation in women at risk of experiencing complications during IVF treatment.
30 babies have been born after their mothers were given an injection of the natural hormone kisspeptin to make their eggs mature instead of the usual fertility drugs.
In the video above, Hannah Dunnington, who gave birth to baby Isabelle in April, talks about why she took part in the clinical study and its impact. The video also features an interview with Waljit Dhillo, NIHR Professor in Endocrinology and Metabolism at Imperial College London, who led the study. He explains more about how kisspeptin works and the results of the trial.
Doctors usually administer hormones such as hCG to mature eggs during IVF treatment, but this can carry the risk of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS), a potentially life-threatening condition. Around a third of IVF patients experience OHSS in a mild form, causing symptoms such as nausea and vomiting. Less than 10 per cent of patients experience moderate or severe OHSS, which can cause kidney failure. Women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) are most likely to develop OHSS during their IVF cycle.
Professor Dhillo presented the results of the study at the Society for Endocrinology’s annual conference in Edinburgh on Wednesday 4 November 2015. He said:
Our study has shown that kisspeptin can be used to effectively and safely trigger egg maturation in women at high risk of OHSS, as well as produce high pregnancy rates.
– Professor Waljit Dhillo
NIHR Professor in Endocrinology and Metabolism at Imperial College London
“OHSS is a serious side effect of IVF treatment and in some cases it can be fatal. Our study has shown that kisspeptin can be used to effectively and safely trigger egg maturation in women at high risk of OHSS, as well as produce high pregnancy rates. These results are very encouraging and I am delighted that 30 babies have been born using this method. I hope our research can be used to make IVF a safer procedure so that we can work towards eliminating the risk of OHSS and contribute to more successful pregnancies.”
Kisspeptin is a naturally occurring hormone that stimulates the release of other reproductive hormones inside the body. Unlike hCG, which remains in the blood for a long time after an injection, kisspeptin is broken down more quickly, meaning the risk of overstimulation is lower.
In the trial, scientists at Imperial College London and clinicians at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust tested kisspeptin in 60 women with PCOS. They found that kisspeptin resulted in no cases of clinically significant OHSS and high implantation rates. Mature eggs developed in 57 out of 60 participants. Fifty-one had one or two embryos transferred to the uterus and 23 women gave birth, including seven women who gave birth to twins. At the best performing dose of kisspeptin the pregnancy and live birth rates were twice that of standard IVF treatment.
The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, was carried out at Hammersmith Hospital, part of Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, between October 2013 and August 2014. It was jointly funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC), Wellcome Trust and the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR).
The team will now apply for funding to conduct a larger study to examine the pregnancy and OHSS rates following the use of kisspeptin with other hormones used during IVF treatment.
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Photos and graphics subject to third party copyright used with permission or © Imperial College London.
Martin Sayers [Digital Media Producer]
Communications and Public Affairs
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