ACS News Service Weekly PressPac: March 18, 2015

Understanding proteins involved in fertility could help boost IVF success

"Label-Free Proteomics Uncovers Energy Metabolism and Focal Adhesion Regulations Responsive for Endometrium Receptivity"
Journal of Proteome Research

Women who have difficulty getting pregnant often turn to in-vitro fertilization (IVF), but it doesn’t always work. Now scientists are taking a new approach to improve the technique by studying the proteins that could help ready a uterus for an embryo to implant in its wall. Their report could help researchers develop a new treatment that could potentially increase the success rate of IVF. The study appears in ACS’ Journal of Proteome Research.

Chen Xu, Hu Zhou and colleagues note that nearly 50 million couples worldwide require some kind of medical intervention to conceive. Among the most common procedures is IVF, but on average, only about one-third of all attempts lead to pregnancy. In the majority of cases that fail, the embryo doesn’t attach to the uterine wall. Why this happens has largely remained a mystery. To address this knowledge gap, Xu and Zhou's team looked at the proteins that could play a role in this process.

The researchers tested samples of the inner uterine membrane called the endometrium from twelve women. They identified more than 2,000 proteins and found that the levels of more than 300 of them varied significantly depending on whether the endometrium was ready for embryo implantation. Boosting or reducing the levels of some of these proteins may increase the possibility that an embryo would implant and therefore increase the IVF success rate. The researchers say the findings could also help them improve treatment of endometrium-related diseases.

The authors acknowledge funding from the National Natural Science Foundation of China, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Ministry of Science and Technology of China and the Shanghai Municipal Education Commission.

Scientists examine the role of proteins in fertility.
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