New Answers for Infertility and Miscarriage

Infertility and miscarriage protein identified

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Miscarriage and infertility are heart-wrenching experiences for a woman. A new study offers possible answers about pregnancy loss that could help doctors better prevent and treat infertility in the future.

Having high levels of a protein may make you infertile, says a study conducted at Imperial College London. And low levels of this same protein can put you at risk of miscarriage.

Scientists think that altering this protein level in women could help women get pregnant and stay pregnant. It could also be used as a form of birth control to prevent pregnancy.

"See a specialist if you can't get pregnant."

British researchers looked at the womb lining (called the endometrium) from 106 women who were having trouble getting pregnant because of unexplained fertility or for recurrent miscarriage, defined as having three or more miscarriages in a row.

The researchers found that the infertile women, who had been trying to conceive for two years or more, had high levels of an enzyme called SGK1 (enzymes are proteins found in the endometrium). Meanwhile, the women who had suffered miscarriage had low levels of the enzyme.

In another part of the study, researchers looked at mice and found that their levels of SGK1 drop during peak fertility time. The researchers then implanted extra copies of the SGK1 enzyme in the wombs of fertile mice. Afterward, the mice were unable to get pregnant. This means that SGK1 levels must fall if a woman is to become pregnant.

The researchers said that fertility treatment will have to be devised to lower SGK1 levels in the short run, prior to in vitro fertilization, and after conception SGK1 levels would have to rise in order to prevent miscarriage.

This also has implications for birth control, as increasing SGK1 levels could be used as contraception, says lead study author Dr. Jan Brosens.

About 10-15% of American couples battle infertility, according to the American Pregnancy Association. Nearly one-third of infertility cases are caused by women’s problems. Another one-third are due to men’s problems, while one-third is the result of unknown problems.

Miscarriage is the spontaneous loss of pregnancy before the 20th week, and occurs in 15-20% of pregnancies.

Recurrent miscarriage is a less common condition, with 1 in 100 women pregnant women suffering recurrent miscarriages. 

This clinical study was published in the journal Nature Medicine.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
October 18, 2011
Last Updated:
October 20, 2011