A group of scientists at Imperial College London have found that administration of the recently discovered protein 'kisspeptin' could 'restore fertility' for some women and form the basis for a new fertility treatment.
The findings of the research, presented at the annual Society for Endocrinology BES (British Endocrine Societies) meeting in Yorkshire and led by Dr Waljit Dhillo, showed that after receiving kisspeptin, women whose infertility was caused by the cessation of their menstrual periods began producing reproductive hormones again. Having discovered two years ago that kisspeptin treatment stimulated reproductive hormone release in fertile women, Dr Dhillo turned his research to infertile women.
Kisspeptin is produced during puberty and triggers the release of sex hormones, without which humans and animals would miss puberty and remain sexually immature. Conversely, over-activation of kisspeptin's receptor GPR54 causes early onset puberty.
The study at Imperial College included ten women who were not menstruating, five of whom were given kisspeptin, and the other five were given saline solution. Blood tests of those who received the kisspeptin revealed that there had been a 48-fold increase in the production of lutenising hormone, and a 16-fold increase in follicle stimulating hormone, both key sex hormones for ovulation and fertility. These results were far higher than those previously gathered for fertile women.
'This is a very exciting result and suggests that kisspeptin treatment could restore reproductive function in women with low sex hormone levels. Our future research will focus on determining the best protocol for repeated administration with the hope of developing a new therapy for infertility' said Dr Dhillo.
Professor Richard Anderson, a fertility expert from the University of Edinburgh said that the research held the promise of a more subtle way of treating women whose reproductive systems had 'shut down'. Where most current treatments involve the direct stimulation of a woman's ovaries which carries a risk of multiple births and side effects, kisspeptin would potentially address the underlying problem and maintain the body's own protective regulatory mechanisms. Professor Anderson believes the hormone 'may well become a mainstream part of therapy'.