The first babies have been born from the use of new IVF treatment which could prevent many women from suffering complications which are life-threatening.
At present, women who undergo fertility treatment are given the hormone, human chorionic gonadotrophin, in a bid to stimulate ovulation. However, this injection can result in a deadly condition, known as ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS).
OHSS results in the swelling of the ovaries to many times its normal size. This affect almost one third of IVF patients to a mild degree, causing vomiting and nausea, but about 5% of patients experience moderate or severe OHSS, which can be fatal as it causes kidney failure.
Imperial College in London have discovered that the hormone kisspeptin also triggers ovulation, but without the side effects.
Since trials commenced during January 2013, 12 babies have been born with this new technique, including nine-month old Owen Harper. His mother said that she had been through several cycles of IVF previously, however the trial method was the least painful and she did not feel as swollen.
In the UK, one in six couples experiences infertility and 48147 women opted for IVF treatment during 2011.
The new technique has been tested on 53 healthy volunteers at Hammersmith Hospital, London during the past year. These volunteers received one injection of kisspeptin. Mature eggs developed in 51 of the 53 volunteers. Of these, 49 had one or two fertilised embryos placed in the uterus, and 12 of them became pregnant. This is a very good result when compared to conventional IVF therapy.
Professor Waljit Dhillio, based at the Department of Medicine, said that OHSS is a huge medical problem. It can cause death in severe cases and occurs in women who are normally healthy. Prof Dhillio said that more effective natural triggers to mature eggs are required and the trial results are promising.
Kisspeptin is broken down very quickly in the blood which limits the risk of overstimulation, unlike HCG, which stays in the blood for a longer period of time after being injected.
The researchers intend carrying out another study in females with polycystic ovary syndrome, who are most at risk of OHSS.
This study has been welcomed by the broader academic community who have called for larger studies to be undertaken.
Dr Mark Hamilton, who is an Honorary Senior Lecturer & Consultant Gynaecologist at the University of Aberdeen, said that the new drug could offer another option to clinics in a way which minimises the risks of IVF.
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