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First baby born from 'safer' IVF method

24 June 2013
Appeared in BioNews 710

A new IVF hormone treatment that has resulted in the birth of a baby boy could make IVF less risky, scientists report.

Suzannah Kidd was given the hormone kisspeptin to stimulate her ovaries to produce eggs for IVF treatment, and gave birth to her son Heath in April.

She was treated as part of a study to test if this treatment could stimulate egg production as effectively as traditional IVF drugs, which carry a small but real risk of severe complications.

Normally, those receiving IVF are given the hormone human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG) to stimulate the ovaries, causing eggs to mature. However, in five percent of cases, hCG can cause ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS), where the ovaries go into overdrive, swell up and produce too many eggs. Most women only experience mild symptoms, but in one in 100 cases, the condition is severe and can be fatal. Those with polycystic ovary syndrome are most at risk.

'We have shown that kisspeptin can be used effectively in patients undergoing IVF treatment to more naturally stimulate the release of reproductive hormones and result in a healthy baby', said Professor Waljit Dhillo from Imperial College London, who led the study.

'The results of the study are very encouraging and whilst we are primarily looking at women most at risk of developing OHSS, there is the potential that kisspeptin could be used across all IVF treatments as a more natural alternative'.

Kisspeptin is a naturally occurring hormone that is produced as part of the normal menstrual cycle. Human chorionic gonadotrophin also occurs naturally, but only in women who are already pregnant. The researchers, at Imperial College London and Hammersmith Hospital, hope to show that their method can avoid complications in at-risk women.

Kisspeptin treatment was given to 30 women as part of the trial, and successfully induced egg production in 29 of them. Eleven women became pregnant after embryo transfer.

The study, presented at the Endocrine Society's annual meeting, looked at those who were not at high risk of OHSS to test the safety of the hormone, but the team are planning to test the method in those who are at risk.

Professor Richard Fleming, Scientific Director of the Glasgow Centre for Reproductive Medicine, told the BBC: 'What's been the conventional treatment for the last 30 years is risky. This looks like another way to make the whole IVF process safer'.

First baby conceived through 'safer' IVF is born
Wired |  18 June 2013
Hormone breakthrough offers hope of safer fertility treatment
The Guardian |  18 June 2013
IVF: First baby born using 'safer' method
BBC News |  18 June 2013
Kisspeptin hormone could make IVF safer for mothers
Imperial College London (press release) |  18 June 2013
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