Fertility switch may help more mothers have children
With many women in the United States and other countries choosing to have babies at older ages, fertility, or infertility, has become a hot-button issue, but new research suggests a “fertility switch”, or an enzyme that acts as such, might be the key to helping those women struggling with infertility, whether in their later years or early years.
Researchers published a report in the journal Nature Medicine describing the protein SGK1, which, in high levels, link to infertility, and, in low levels, may cause miscarriage.
Because so many women identify with having children, and so many struggle with infertility, the research could be the start of helping so many more women become mothers. Much like fingerprints or hair color, infertility happens for different reasons with different women. Women band together over their infertility, but rarely do they have the same cause of infertility.
Some of the most common causes of infertility are low levels of ovulation, hormonal issues, problems with ovarian tubes and even the low sperm count of our partners. Whatever the reason, it leads to the same realization for every woman struggling with infertility: she can’t have a baby. Even when a woman does conceive, two major and common problems often crop up: miscarriage and a tubal pregnancy, neither of which can be salvaged.
Adoption and surrogacy are becoming more and more popular, but most women have a biological pull to conceive her children with her spouse, carry them within her body and then deliver them the traditional way. Celebrities like Sarah Jessica Parker and Nicole Kidman chose surrogacy, likely because of their advanced age, and Kristin Davis, 46, recently adopted a child as a single parent.
The fertility switch the scientists discovered could lead to new treatments for infertility.
Study leader Jan Brosens said its results suggested new fertility and miscarriage treatments could be designed around SGK1.
"I can envisage that in the future, we might treat the womb lining by flushing it with drugs that block SGK1 before women undergo IVF (in vitro fertilization)," he said in a statement.
"Another potential application is that increasing SGK1 levels might be used as a new method of contraception."
Miscarriage happens more frequently than people might think, with a large percentage of first-time pregnancies ending in miscarriage. With the new information these researrchers found, there may be a way to cut back on the amount of miscarriages happening in women.
"Low levels of SGK1 make the womb lining vulnerable to cellular stress, which might explain why low SGK1 was more common in women who have had recurrent miscarriage," said Madhuri Salker of Imperial college, who also worked on the study.
"In the future, we might take biopsies of the womb lining to identify abnormalities that might give them a higher risk of pregnancy complications, so that we can start treating them before they get pregnant."