Page URL:

Melatonin could improve women's IVF success

20 September 2010
Appeared in BioNews 576

Women with poor egg (or oocyte) quality could double their chance of becoming pregnant through IVF if given melatonin, researchers have found. The work was presented at the World Congress of Fertility and Sterility in Munich last week.

'Despite great advances in assisted reproductive technology, poor oocyte quality remains a serious problem for female infertility', said Professor Hiroshi Tamura from the Yamaguchi University Graduate School of Medicine, Japan, who led the research. 'So far no practical and effective treatment for improving oocyte quality has been established'.

High levels of oxidising agents - a type of chemical compound - in the follicular fluids surrounding the egg indicate if a woman has low quality oocytes. These can 'stress' and damage the oocyte. The team took one of these agents known as 8-OHdG and measured its levels in follicular fluid samples. Levels of melatonin, which is known to have anti-oxidising effects, were also measured.

The team found that, as melatonin concentration in the follicular fluids naturally increased, the level of 8-OHdG decreased, leading them to believe melatonin was linked to the reduction of the oxidising agents. They confirmed this finding in mice, and discovered that adding melatonin seemed to reduce the damage to the egg caused by the agents.

Next, the group set up a trial with women coming for IVF treatment at the Yamaguchi University Graduate School of Medicine to see if these findings could have real-world effects on IVF. Women who had failed to become pregnant because of poor oocyte quality after one cycle of IVF were split into two groups - 56 women were given three milligrams of melatonin before the next IVF cycle, and 59 just received a standard IVF cycle without melatonin.

The team found that melatonin treatment significantly increased melatonin concentrations in the women's follicles and significantly decreased concentrations of the damaging 8-OhdG. Their results showed 50 per cent of the eggs from women who taken melatonin could be successfully fertilised, as opposed to 22.8 per cent in the control group. When the eggs were transplanted into the womb, 19 per cent (11 out of the total 56) of the women became pregnant, as opposed to 10.2 per cent (six out of total 59) in the control group. The work was published in the Journal of Pineal Research.

'This work needs to be confirmed, but we believe that melatonin treatment is likely to become a significant option for improving oocyte quality in women who cannot become pregnant because of poor oocyte quality', said Professor Tamura. 'Our next step is to analyze exactly how reactive oxygen species harm the oocyte, and how melatonin reduces oxidative stress in the oocyte'.

Professor Russel Reiter from the UT Health Science Center, San Antonio, Texas, who co-authored the paper, agreed. He told BioNews: 'it is important that this work be independently confirmed on larger numbers of subjects'. But he added that the findings 'make perfect sense', as melatonin has been shown to protect many different cells and tissues from oxidative damage - the same type of damage known to occur to oocytes.

Hormone melatonin improves egg quality in IVF
The Medical News |  15 September 2010
Source: Press release from the World Congress of Fertility and Sterility
World Congress of Fertility and Sterility |  15 September 2010
16 May 2011 - by Dr Rosie Morley 
A study of over 400,000 IVF treatment cycles in the UK has found a 'strong association' between the number of eggs retrieved prior to a woman undergoing IVF and live birth rate. The findings suggest that chances of a live birth increased with the number of eggs collected up to the number of 15, after which it began to decline....
7 March 2011 - by Leo Perfect 
Researchers from the University of Western Australia have published a study suggesting IVF effectiveness could be improved by undergoing more cycles....
28 February 2011 - by Dr Lucy Freem 
Stress levels are unlikely to affect whether or not a woman becomes pregnant following fertility treatment despite anecdotal reports, a review suggests....
14 February 2011 - by Dr Marianne Kennedy 
New research suggests that women from ethnic minority backgrounds may have lower success rates with fertility treatment....
15 November 2010 - by Kyrillos Georgiadis 
UK-based researchers have developed a new screening technique which could double or triple IVF success rates. The new test allows for any chromosomal abnormalities to be detected in embryos before they are implanted into the mother....
19 July 2010 - by Sarah Pritchard 
Women given acupuncture during IVF treatment are no more likely to become pregnant than their counterparts who undergo needle stimulation to body areas not used in acupuncture, a US study has shown...
15 March 2010 - by Dr Sophie Pryor 
Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine do not provide any benefit to women trying to become pregnant, the British Fertility Society (BFS) has found after reviewing the available evidence. The new guidelines, published in the journal Human Fertility, state that there is 'currently no evidence' that these methods increase the success rate of assisted conception, when used in conjunction with IVF (in vitro fertilisation)....
15 November 2009 - by Dr Rebecca Robey 
A controversial new technique to improve the quality of eggs from older women undergoing IVF is being developed by Japanese scientists. Because the procedure involves using eggs from two women to create a single viable egg for fertilisation, it has sparked a media furore over the potential creation of what have been inaccurately dubbed 'three-parent embryos'....
to add a Comment.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions

Syndicate this story - click here to enquire about using this story.