Finding the right treatment for repeated implantation failure

Uncovering how abnormal immune cell populations in the womb could be linked to repeat implantation failure and early pregnancy loss is the focus of new research by Dr Ellen Menkhorst.

Dr Ellen Menkhorst

Dr Menkhorst, a Research Scientist in the Embryo Implantation Research Group, has been awarded a $100,000 grant from the Rebecca L. Cooper Foundation to help more couples undergoing IVF achieve a healthy pregnancy.

Up to 10 per cent of couples who undergo IVF experience repeat implantation failure (where the embryo fails to implant in the womb) or recurrent early pregnancy loss – yet there is no definitive diagnosis or known cure.

“We know that in some women, recurrent miscarriage and repeat implantation failure is linked to abnormal immune programming during the second half of the menstrual cycle,” Dr Menkhorst says.

Dr Menkhorst’s research first identified that abnormalities during the ‘decidualisation’ phase of the menstrual cycle spark a cascade of events that is associated with early pregnancy loss.

“What we don’t know is how some anti-inflammatory treatments (such as aspirin, intralipid or prednisolone) which are administered by IVF clinicians at different times in a woman’s cycle, actually affect the immune cells in the womb,” Dr Menkhorst says.

“While clinical trials show some women undergoing IVF probably benefit from these drugs, what’s not known is precisely how they affect immune cell populations in the womb, which women are most likely to benefit, or which treatment works best for each woman.”

The research will uncover precisely how these drugs affect immune cells in the womb and whether women who experience repeat implantation failures have an altered endometrium that could predict how they respond to these treatments.

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