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19 May 2006
Biopsy Effect Puzzles Fertility Doctors

Completely unexpected results from biopsies performed on women with fertility problems have led fertility experts on a new path of discovery that may hold hope for women trying to conceive. Professor Nava Dekel of the Weizmann Institute's Biological Regulation Department had been investigating a protein she suspected played a role in the implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterus - a crucial and sometimes failure-prone process. The team took biopsies at several stages in the menstrual cycles of 12 women with long histories of fertility problems and unsuccessful IVF treatments to see if levels of this protein changed over the course of the cycle.

The team's research went according to plan and they found evidence pointing to the protein's role, but the real surprise came later. Incredibly, of the 12 women participating in the study, 11 became pregnant during the next round of IVF. The idea of biopsy incisions - essentially small wounds - leading to such a positive outcome was puzzling. Dekel realized something interesting was happening so she and her team repeated the biopsies, this time on a group of 45 volunteers, and compared the results to a control group of 89 women who did not undergo biopsy. The results were clear: The biopsy procedure somehow doubled a woman's chances of becoming pregnant.

Dekel's team suggests that some form of mild distress - such as a biopsy - may provoke a response that makes conditions in the uterus favorable for implantation. Dekel and her team are now looking for the exact mechanisms involved and in the future, this accidental finding may give birth to new treatments to improve the success rate of IVF; or even tackle some types of fertility problems directly.

Source: Weizmann Institute of Science

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