A Safer In Vitro Method

Kisspeptin hormone may be safer way to harvest eggs during in vitro fertilization

(RxWiki News) To realize their dreams of parenthood, many couples turn to in vitro fertilization (IVF). But this procedure is not without its risks.

A new study found that the hormone kisspeptin may be a safer, more effective method for harvesting eggs during IVF than the conventional method, which uses the hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) to stimulate egg growth. A possible side effect of conventional IVF treatment is a condition called ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS).

"IVF is an effective therapy for couples affected by infertility, but it can result in OHSS, which is a potentially life-threatening side effect," said lead study author Ali Abbara, PhD, a professor of investigative medicine at Imperial College London, in a press release. "We have shown that using kisspeptin in place of conventional drugs used during IVF treatment safely matures eggs, even in women at high risk of OHSS."

In IVF, mature eggs are harvested from a woman's ovaries and fertilized by a man's sperm in a lab.

OHSS is a condition that affects the ovaries of some women, typically those who use injectable hormone medications to stimulate egg growth in IVF. While most cases are mild, about 1 to 2 percent of women develop a severe form of OHSS that can lead to serious illness or even death.

Women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) — a hormonal disorder that causes enlarged ovaries with small cysts — are at high risk, with up to one-fourth of these women developing severe OHSS.

For this study, Dr. Abbara and team gave 60 women at high risk of OHSS kisspeptin at different doses. After 36 hours, their eggs were harvested and fertilized. One or two resulting embryos were then implanted.

None of these women developed moderate, severe or critical OHSS during their pregnancies. The average live birth rate among these women was 45 percent across all doses, rising to 62 percent for the best performing dose of kisspeptin.

According to these researchers, these findings suggest that kisspeptin may be a safer, more effective alternative IVF treatment — even in women at high risk of developing OHSS.

"Interestingly, our results also suggest that using the best performing dose of kisspeptin resulted in pregnancy rates almost twice those reported for this age group using conventional stimuli of egg maturation," Dr. Abbara said. "Kisspeptin appears to be a promising therapy and further studies are now needed to directly compare kisspeptin with currently available IVF treatments."

This study was presented Nov. 3 at the Society for Endocrinology's annual conference in the UK. Research presented at conferences may not have been peer-reviewed.

Information on funding sources and conflicts of interest was not available at the time of publication.

Review Date: 
November 2, 2015