Sunday 9 January 2011
An experimental fertility treatment increases the odds of an IVF pregnancy up to six times while also inhibiting chemicals which cause miscarriages, a study has found.
When women who had gone through IVF time and time again without success were given a soya-based substance, half became pregnant.
In contrast, fewer than one in ten of those who had conventional fertility treatment alone conceived.
The doctors behind the remarkable study believe that the Intralipid liquid, a fat and calorie-rich potion normally used when tube-feeding very sick patients, could help many more women achieve their dream of motherhood.
Improving success rates would spare women the emotional and financial pain of going through repeated IVF treatments, only for them to fail. The liquid also stems the production by the body of harmful chemicals which can lead to miscarriage.
George Ndukwe, of the Care fertility clinic in Nottingham, said: ‘Every day in my clinic I see women who have had numerous IVF cycles all with the same negative outcome and no baby.
‘I also regularly see couples who have suffered the misery of repeated miscarriages.
‘People talk about the financial implications but the emotional one is as bad or, I would say, worse.
‘These women are at the bottom of a dark pit and can’t climb out and can’t see the light.
We are devoting our attention to finding answers when nature goes wrong.’
Dr Ndukwe, the clinic’s medical director, believes that up to one in four women who struggle conceiving have faulty immune systems.
It is thought that extra high levels of white blood cells called natural killer cells ‘fight’ the pregnancy by triggering the production of chemicals that attack the placenta or the embryo.
The chemicals are already known to trigger rheumatoid arthritis and the arthritis drug Humira has shown promise in boosting pregnancy rates.
However, it costs up to £3,500 per patient and does not work for everyone.
At around £200 per woman, Intralipid, which is given through a drip around a week before a woman has IVF, is much cheaper.
And the latest research, to be presented at a British Fertility Society conference on Thursday, shows it is also more effective at stemming production of the harmful chemicals.
Dr Ndukwe said: ‘This infusion is inexpensive, well tolerated and easy to administer.’
The fertility expert ran his trial on a group of women who had failed to become pregnant despite enduring an average of six IVF attempts each. One woman had tried and failed at IVF 12 times.
Half of those treated became pregnant, compared with just 9 per cent of those not given the fatty substance.
Other doctors are trying to use steroids to lower levels of natural killer cells in the body.
Professor Siobhan Quenby, of Solihull Hospital and Warwick University, has already successfully used an asthma drug to curb the immune system response in a pilot trial of women who had suffered repeated miscarriages.