Natural killers or your body’s peacemakers?

Most people having fertility treatment are keen to absolutely anything they can to try to boost their chances of success, and sometimes that can mean paying for additional treatments as well as their IVF or ICSI which they hope can increase the likelihood that they will get pregnant. The problem with many of these treatments is that there is not yet sufficient evidence to be able to say that they will do what they claim to do, but fertility patients sometimes decide to have them anyway.

One treatment offered by some clinics is related to the level of natural killer (NK) cells in a woman’s body – the very name suggests that having a lot of these must inevitably be a bad thing. If you are considering having your NK cells tested as part of your fertility treatment, you may be interested in reading this article which explains the growing understanding that at least some of a woman’s natural killer cells act as peacekeepers, preventing other immune cells from attacking the fetus. They also produce chemicals which promote the growth of the baby and blood vessel connections.

You can read more about all fertility treatment add-ons on the HFEA website, where each of the different treatments has been ranked according to the latest scientific evidence and given a traffic light grading.

Reproductive immunology

Natural_killer_cellIf you look on fertility websites, you’ll often find people discussing reproductive immunology or their NK cell tests and results. What’s often not clear from the discussions is the fact that the reason many fertility specialists don’t offer this kind of treatment is because they don’t believe there is any scientific evidence to back up the theories.

This picture above is apparently an NK cell – I can’t imagine they are quite that purple in colour, but it gives them just the kind of slightly sinister look that the name conjures up. In fact, as Dr Norman Shreeve from Cambridge University explains in the latest edition of the BioNews online newsletter, the name is misleading as the cells play a key role in early pregnancy,

If you’re thinking of looking into having your NK cells tested, or taking some of the treatments currently offered in this field, you should first read the information on the HFEA website and a scientific impact paper on the subject from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists which is more complex but also concludes that there is little evidence to support the use of these treatments and that their use should be restricted to research trials.

What the experts have to say on reproductive immunology

If you are considering having immune tests or treatments along with your fertility treatment, it is important to have looked into this properly. You will find vast amounts of information about this online, some of it written by people who currently offer the treatment. More and more patients consider having NK cell testing along with other assessments, but not all are aware of the views of leading professionals in the field.

The things it is really worth reading about this are first, a Scientific Impact Paper from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, which is the professional body for gynaecologists, including fertility specialists, in the UK. The other is the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority’s information for patients about reproductive immunology. These give an evidence-based view from professional experts and will give a good basis on which to make any decision about immune tests and treatments.