Researchers in Argentina report that women with multiple sclerosis (MS) who undergo assisted reproduction technology (ART) infertility treatment are at risk for increased disease activity. Study findings published in Annals of Neurology, a journal of the American Neurological Association and Child Neurology Society, suggest reproductive hormones contribute to regulation of immune responses in autoimmune diseases such as MS.
According to a 2006 report from the World Health Organization (WHO), MS affects 2.5 million individuals worldwide and is more common among women than men. While previous research found that up to 20% of couples in Western countries experience infertility, women with MS typically do not have diminished fertility except in those treated with cyclophosphamide or high-dose corticosteroids. Medical evidence shows sex hormones and those involved in ovulation (gonadotrophin-releasing hormone (GnRH)) play an important role in the development of autoimmune disorders.
"When MS and infertility coincide, patients seek ART to achieve pregnancy," explains Dr. Jorge Correale with the Ra-l Carrea Institute for Neurological Research in Buenos Aires. "Given the role of some reproductive hormones in autoimmune diseases, those with MS receiving infertility treatments are at particular risk of exacerbating their disease."
To further understand the impact of infertility treatment on MS disease activity, researchers analyzed clinical, radiological, and immune response data in 16 MS patients who were subject to 26 ART cycles. The team recruited 15 healthy volunteers and 15 MS patients in remission not receiving ART to serve as controls.