Having trouble conceiving? You're not alone. An increasing number of people are seeking medical help for infertility or difficulties in conceiving, leading to a significant rise in infertility-related treatments worldwide. Numerous factors can cause fertility issues, and so identifying the exact cause is crucial to initiate appropriate treatment. For example, a thin endometrium (the innermost lining of the uterus) is a significant contributing factor to female infertility. Making a remarkable achievement in fertility treatment, Korean scientists have developed a gel that could regenerate endometrium tissue.
In IVF treatments, a healthy endometrium is crucial for a successful pregnancy. If you have a thin endometrium, embryo implantation may be less effective, and there is a high chance of miscarriage. Currently, the condition is treated with hormone therapy and endometrial injections, but they have shown limited success.
Researchers from Pohang University of Science and Technology and CHA University have jointly developed a hydrogel that induces endometrial regeneration. They have also explained the mechanism controlling this process in a paper published in Advanced Functional Materials.
Treating female infertility using a gel: How it works
The new hydrogel is developed using a uterus-derived decellularized extracellular matrix (UdECM). It may be mentioned that dECMs are used in regeneration and transplantation of tissue and organs and in tissue fabrication through 3D printing.
The gel is designed to possess the characteristics of two different tissues: the entire uterine tissue and a specific layer of the endometrium. Its protein composition closely resembled the actual endometrial components, the researchers stated.
To test its effectiveness, the new hydrogel was injected in animal models (mice). It led to an increase in the endometrial thickness, thereby creating a favorable environment for embryo implantation. The hydrogel is a biomaterial with low cytotoxicity, which means higher survival rate of implanted embryos (90 per cent as per the study).
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Mechanism involved in endometrial regeneration
For the first time, the Korean research team discovered the mechanism involved in endometrial regeneration. They found the involvement of insulin-like growth factor (IGF1) and insulin growth factor-binding protein (IGFBP3) in the process. This discovery opens the way for future research on endometrial regeneration.
Further the researchers suggested that the hydrogel can be used for treatment of various conditions such as intrauterine adhesions and repeated implantation failures, depending on the tissue from which it is made, such as the endometrium and muscles. This can lead to the development of personalized treatments based on the state of the patient's endometrium.
Professor Dong-Woo Cho, who led the research, is optimistic that further research into its clinical application can bring hope to patients grappling with infertility.