The naturally occurring hormone kisspeptin effectively induces egg maturation during infertility treatment, according to a clinical in vitro fertilization (IVF) study. The results were presented Monday at The Endocrine Society's 95th Annual Meeting in San Francisco.
Aptly named after the popular chocolate Hershey's kiss candy, kisspeptin was discovered in Hershey, PA, in 1996. Released by the brain in both males and females, the hormone triggers the development of secondary sexual characteristics and other changes of puberty.
Each year, thousands of women seek IVF treatment for infertility. The treatment is readily available and often successful, but, like all medical interventions, still has some risks. One of the most serious is a condition called ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome. This condition results when the hormones used to stimulate egg maturation overstimulate the ovaries, which can then become painfully swollen. Often cases are mild and improve without treatment in one to two weeks. However, approximately 10 percent of cases are severe ones causing life-threatening complications, including shortness of breath, blood clots and kidney failure.
In contrast, kisspeptin stimulates the ovaries to release levels of reproductive hormones that are similar to those produced naturally by women with normal menstrual cycles. Because of this, fertility researchers are interested in the hormone's potential to safely induce egg maturation in IVF.
Results from this study funded by the Medical Research Council UK and the National Institute for Health Research indicate that the hormone kisspeptin effectively induces egg maturation when used during IVF treatment. In 21 of 22 women who participated in the study, egg maturation occurred after kisspeptin injections. Embryos developed in 20 women. Twelve hours after kisspeptin injections, luteinizing hormone levels increased eightfold. During the normal reproductive cycle, luteinizing hormone increases to trigger ovulation.