The first baby in the world to be born to a woman who was given a naturally occurring hormone to stimulate egg production instead of the usual fertility drugs could herald a safer era of IVF treatment, scientists believe.
The baby, a healthy boy weighing 7.15lbs, was born in April. His mother took part in a trial run by Hammersmith hospital and Imperial College in London designed to ensure that the hormone, kisspeptin, was capable of stimulating the ovaries and maturing the eggs just as well as the normal treatment.
The hope is to spare women from the potentially life-threatening condition of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome.
Although the numbers of women who suffer from this complication is relatively small – about 5% get moderate OHSS and 1% get it severely – the worst affected become very ill and will spend two to six weeks in hospital.
The women who are most at risk are the 5-10% who have a condition known as polycystic ovary syndrome.
No drug company was involved in the research because there is not obviously a big market for the treatment. The study was funded by theMedical Research Council and the National Institute for Health Research, whose concern was safety.
“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, of Imperial College London, who led the work.
“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.”
Geoffrey Trew, consultant in reproductive medicine and surgery at Hammersmith hospital, said: “We’re absolutely thrilled that this study has resulted in the birth of a healthy baby boy. Each year thousands of couples in the UK start families using IVF treatment and if we can work towards eliminating the risk of OHSS, using the naturally occurring hormone kisspeptin, we can hopefully help even more women and make the treatment potentially safer. This is a very exciting breakthrough.”
The results of the study were presented at a conference of the Endocrine Society in San Francisco. In the study, doctors gave 30 women kisspeptin and successfully induced egg production in 29 of them. Embryos developed in 28, and 11 women tested positive for pregnancy 12 days after the embryo was transferred.
The study enrolled women who were not at risk of OHSS in order to test whether the hormone would work as well as the routine drug.