You may have read reports about “safer” IVF in the last few days, focused on a study which used a naturally occurring hormone called kisspeptin to mature eggs during IVF treatment. The idea behind this was to try to reduce the chances of ovarian hyperstimulation – a condition which can be caused by fertility treatment. Although the majority women who experience hyperstimulation have fairly mild symptoms, it can be severe and even life-threatening, so being able to cut the risk of hyperstimulation during treatment would be a good thing.
I was really pleased to see that the brilliant NHS Choices has covered this story – if you aren’t familiar with the health news section of the website, it looks behind the headlines and tells you the truth behind the sometimes hyped headlines. In this case, most of the coverage seems to have been fairly accurate – but NHS Choices does point out some important flaws in the research. Although it does show that kisspeptin has the capacity to mature eggs, only 53 women were involved in the trial and just 12 babies were born – so ar more research would be needed to prove that using it cut the risk of hyperstimulation. NHS Choices also explains that there was no control group in the study – so there was no comparison with a similar group of women going through standard IVF. What’s also important is the fact that women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), who are most at risk of hyperstimulation, were not included in the group – there will now be a further trial focusing on women who have PCOS.
You can read more about the research, and see a really good video which explains the study made by the team from Imperial College who carried out the work here