Fertility study finds hormone that could support early pregnancy

February 21, 2018, University of Edinburgh

The hormone helps prime cells for implantation, a vital stage in early pregnancy when a fertilised egg attaches to the womb lining, the study suggests.

The discovery - made by testing tissue from aged in their forties - could help scientists develop ways to improve fertility.

Each month, as part of the , hormones send chemical signals to in the womb lining to create conditions to support pregnancy. Fertilised eggs are extremely sensitive to changes in the womb lining, but the exact environment needed for healthy implantation is unknown.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh tested the effects of a known as DHEA on healthy tissue donated by women undergoing unrelated surgery.

They found that treating lining cells with DHEA in a dish doubled the level of key proteins associated with healthy implantation in the tissue.

DHEA treatment also increased the production of active androgens - hormones found in high levels in men - suggesting that these could underlie the improvement.

The study also suggests that levels of DHEA - which are known to decline significantly with age - could play a role in infertility in later life, researchers say.

They caution that it is too early to say if treatments could help women with fertility issues.

The study, published in the journal Fertility and Sterility, was funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC).

Lead author Dr Douglas Gibson, from the MRC Centre for Inflammation Research at the University of Edinburgh, said: "A fertilised egg will implant only if the conditions are just right and we were excited to see that DHEA and androgens might help improve this environment in cells. The findings will help us develop studies for potential therapies but more research is needed before we can tell if this approach could be used to help women who are struggling to conceive."

Dr Stephen Meader, Programme Manager for Reproductive Health at the MRC, said: "This study is important in learning more about what's required for a successful implantation and healthy pregnancy. This research may be in its early stages, but it's worthwhile because it lays the groundwork to uncovering potential treatments down the road to help women trying to conceive."

Explore further: Insight into heavy periods could pave the way towards new treatment

More information: Douglas A. Gibson et al, Dehydroepiandrosterone enhances decidualization in women of advanced reproductive age, Fertility and Sterility (2018). DOI: 10.1016/j.fertnstert.2017.12.024

Related Stories

Insight into heavy periods could pave the way towards new treatment

January 24, 2018
Scientists from the MRC Centre for Reproductive Health at the University of Edinburgh have uncovered a cause of heavy menstrual bleeding – a finding that offers hope for a new treatment for women living with the condition.

Lab-grown eggs could pave way towards new fertility treatments

February 8, 2018
Human eggs have been fully grown in a laboratory, in a move that could lead to improved fertility treatments.

Womb natural killer cell discovery could lead to screening for miscarriage risk

December 14, 2017
For the first time the functions of natural killer cells in the womb have been identified.

Simple 'scratching' technique tested in first-time IVF patients

September 7, 2016
A new simple procedure which involves gently scratching the lining of the womb in the month before IVF treatment, potentially improving treatment success, is being tested on first-time IVF attempters in a ground-breaking ...

Lack of stem cells to blame for recurrent miscarriages

March 7, 2016
Scientists at the University of Warwick have discovered that a lack of stem cells in the womb lining is causing thousands of women to suffer from recurrent miscarriages.

Recommended for you

Discovery promises improved diagnosis and understanding of endometriosis

March 19, 2018
Feinstein Institute for Medical Research scientists announced an experimental, rapid and non-invasive way to diagnose endometriosis, which may lead to earlier and more effective treatments for this disorder that affects approximately ...

Vaginal estrogen tablets, moisturizers and placebo gel all can improve vaginal discomfort

March 19, 2018
A clinical trial comparing two treatments for postmenopausal vaginal discomfort - low-dose vaginal estrogen and a vaginal moisturizer - to placebo treatments found that both produced symptom improvements similar to those ...

Frozen embryos more successful for conceiving during IVF

March 19, 2018
A new study carried out by a research team at The University of Western Australia and Fertility Specialists of Western Australia has found that women undergoing IVF who have had embryos fail to implant have more success using ...

Alomst 70 percent of 103 genes linked to prenatal death affect the placenta

March 14, 2018
The role of the placenta in healthy fetal development is being seriously under-appreciated according to a new paper published today (14th March). The study was part of the Wellcome Trust-funded "Deciphering the Mechanisms ...

New research shows why babies need to move in the womb

March 12, 2018
Scientists have just discovered why babies need to move in the womb to develop strong bones and joints. It turns out there are some key molecular interactions that are stimulated by movement and which guide the cells and ...

Labour–inducing drugs put to the test

February 27, 2018
Researchers comparing the use of two drugs for pregnant women who do not go into labour shortly after their waters break have found both are reasonable options.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.