'Chocolate hormone'-based technique to ease the pain of IVF complications

19 July 2014

Women who want to become mothers could soon benefit from a form of IVF based on a 'chocolate hormone', Mailonline reported.

With doctors at Imperial College, London, in the process perfecting a treatment capitalising on the body's own way of ripening eggs, a safer, kinder may be available to such women.

According to the doctors 12 babies had been born so far though this technique.

Patients may be spared pain and discomfort and the odds of potentially life-threatening complications could also be cut. The new treatment used a hormone called kisspeptin, which is naturally produced in the body.

Discovered in the mid-1990s by researchers in Hershey, Pennsylvania, it is named after Hershey's Chocolate Kisses.

Kisspeptin works to trigger the ripening of eggs during normal pregnancies and so should be gentler on the body than human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), a drug currently used in IVF.

It also broke down more quickly, which should also cut the risk of problems.

Some 53 IVF patients had received the 'chocolate hormone' in the study and 12 babies were born. None of the women suffered from ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) which could cause nausea, vomiting and bloating.

Three ectopic pregnancies were reported, a potentially fatal complication in which the embryo got implanted outside the womb but that might have been a statistical blip, according to the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Though OHSS affects a third of IVF patients in a mild form, causing symptoms such as nausea and vomiting, around 5 per cent of patients experienced moderate or severe OHSS, which could cause fatal kidney failure, The Telegraph reported. 

Unlike HCG, which remained in the blood for a long time after an injection, kisspeptin broke down more quickly, which meant the risk of overstimulation was lower.

The women in the study were given a single injection of kisspeptin to induce ovulation, which led to developed eggs in 51 out of 53 participants.

According to professor Waljit Dhillo, from the Department of Medicine, it had been a joy to see 12 healthy babies born using this approach.

Dhillo added OHSS was a major medical problem and could be fatal in severe cases. It occurred in women undergoing IVG treatment who were otherwise healthy.

The researchers planned to conduct a second study in women with polycystic ovary syndrome, who had the highest risk of OHSS.

Dr Mark Hamilton, honorary senior lecturer & consultant gynaecologist, University of Aberdeen, said the new drug might provide clinics with another option to minimise risks for women having IVF and the birth of babies using the new medication was very exciting.

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