Researchers have discovered that some women carry a genetic variation that makes them sub-fertile and less likely to respond to ovarian stimulating hormones during fertility treatment. The discovery opens the way to identifying these women and devising personalised fertility treatments that could bypass the problem caused by the genetic abnormality.
June 29, 2010
Dr Maria Lalioti told the 26th annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Rome today that she and her colleagues from the Yale University Medical School, New Haven (USA), had found that some women had an abnormal hormone receptor on cells surrounding oocytes (eggs). This abnormal receptor impaired the function of normal receptors that were also present and resulted in the affected women responding less well to Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH), which is given to women during fertility treatment to stimulate the production of more than one oocyte.
Dr Lalioti, as assistant professor in the Department of Obstetrics Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at Yale, said: “When a woman undergoes in vitro fertilisation, she receives medication called Follicle Stimulating Hormone to produce more than one oocyte, which is the normal production each month. Cells called granulosa cells, which surround the oocyte, receive the FSH; these cells excrete other factors that ‘feed’ the oocyte. The granulosa cells have proteins present on their surface called FSH receptors (or FSHR) and it is these proteins that stick to the FSH and then carry signals into the cell’s interior. When we looked at a portion of these granulosa cells in the laboratory we saw that in some women, who produced very few oocytes, there were some receptors that lacked a piece of the protein, although there were still other, normal FSHR in the women’s cells.”
The abnormal FSHR contained a deleted sequence of protein called exon 2 that is an important part of the protein that binds the FSH; FSHR with the exon 2 deletion was only detected in women younger than 35 who had a poor response to FSH and yielded less than four oocytes in a follicle stimulating cycle.