A NEW type of IVF offering hope for women normally at risk of life-threatening complications has been pioneered by doctors at Hammersmith Hospital.
The breakthrough study has found a type of In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) treatment which involves the use of kisspeptin - a hormone which appears naturally, and multiplies in pregnant women - instead of the traditional IVF drug, human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), to induce egg development.
About five per cent of women are at risk of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) when HCG is used, which can cause various symptoms, from bloating and nausea to shortness of breath and even death in extreme cases.
Of those five per cent, the majority at risk of OHSS are women with polycystic ovary syndrome, a disease where cysts develop at the edge of the ovaries and which affects millions of women in the UK.
By using kisspeptin instead of HCG, doctors found the risk of developing OHSS is eradicated and despite only finalising tests in June last year, the first baby was born using the method in April this year at Hammersmith Hospital.
It all started when Dr Geoffrey Trey, a consultant in reproductive medicine and surgery at Hammersmith, read a paper on the subject, by Professor Waljit Dhillo, a professor in endocrinology and metabolism at Imperial College London.
Dr Trey, 52, said: "We're absoloutely thrilled this study has resulted in the birth of a healthy baby boy. OHSS can be life threatening so it was really important for us to find a natural way to induce egg maturation when implementing IVF treatment. There are several groups around the world looking at kisspeptin for IVF but we're the first to prove it works by having a baby born through the method. It's very very exciting."
Professor Dhillo, 43, explained how the process works. He said: "We all have kisspeptin in our brain and when a woman becomes pregnant, it multiplies massively. Kisspeptins were only discovered in 1996 and it was only in 2003 that we found out you need these peptides to go through puberty. Safety is key for pregnancy and we weren't too worried about side effects because kisspeptin is used naturally in the amniotic fluid surrounding the baby.
"Kisspeptin was actually named after the American chocolate, Hershey's Kisses, because it was discovered in Hershey, Pennsylvania. It's quite apt that we're using it to help women get pregnant."
Since the study - funded by the Medical Research Council UK and the National Institute for Health Research - started at Hammersmith, they have had an outstanding success rate. Out of the 30 women who took part in the study, 29 of them had successful egg production due to the kisspeptin, and embryos developed in 28. On top of that, 11 out of 25 participants were pregnant just 12 days after receiving an embryo transfer.
Professor Dhillo and his team presented their history-making findings for the first time ever at the Endocrine Society's 95th annual meeting in San Francisco on Monday where they were met with widespread applause and admiration.
Any woman interested in taking part in studies using kisspeptin as part of IVF treatment should contact the team at Imperial College London on: email@example.com