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Researchers show hormone offers hope as a new fertility treatment

A group of scientists at Hammersmith Hospital, Imperial College London, have shown for the first time that giving women the hormone kisspeptin stimulates release of the sex hormones which control periods. This finding suggests that kisspeptin could be a potential new treatment for fertility.

Kisspeptin is a hormone coded by the KiSS-1 gene. This gene was discovered in Hershey, Pennsylvania, and researchers decided to name it after the town’s most famous product, the Hershey chocolate “Kiss”. Animals and humans lacking kisspeptin function do not go through puberty and remain sexually immature.

The scientists at Imperial College injected a small group of healthy female volunteers with the hormone kisspeptin. Soon after injection the volunteers showed a rise in their circulating concentrations of luteinising hormone (LH), a hormone which can be used to stimulate the ovary in fertility treatment.

Kisspeptin increased LH concentrations at all stages of the menstrual cycle, but the effect was greatest in the pre ovulation phase, which is essential for fertility. This is the first time that kisspeptin has been shown to have a stimulatory effect on LH in women.

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It’s likely that the next steps will be to test the effects of kisspeptin in patients with disorders of sexual regulation.

Researcher Dr Waljit Dhillo said:

‘Kisspeptin has previously been shown to potently stimulate hormone release in animals, but this is the first time that it has been shown to stimulate sex hormone release in women. Kisspeptin is a promising new tool for the restoration of normal reproductive function in women with low sex hormone levels’.

Jo Thurston | alfa
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