Discovery of L-Selectin Could Lead to Breakthrough in Fertility Care
Researchers identified a protein on the surface of the embryo that helps explain how the fertilized embryo gets attached to the uterine wall. Scientists analyzed carbohydrate molecules on the surface of the uterus during different times of the female cycle and found a very specialized carbohydrate sugar structure. The sugar molecule is secreted for only a
short time during a woman’s monthly cycle and matches the discovered protein on the surface of the embryo like a puzzle. The arrival of the protein with its L-selectin coating in the uterus must be perfectly timed with the presence of the sugar molecules in the uterus or there will be no pregnancy.
“This might be the explanation why someIVF transfers are unsuccessful”, says Dr. William Hummel. “With this knowledge it soon won’t be necessary to transfer more than one embryo into the uterus.” Further research has to investigate if the current number representing a failure of implantation can be reduced by coating embryos with the sugar molecule and helping the embryo adhere to the uterus. In addition, a more precise timing for the transfer could improve the chances for implantation and therefore a greater certainty for a successful pregnancy. The results of the research are very promising for new advances in fertility treatment. In addition, it may be possible to develop new contraceptives based on blocking the implantation of the embryo instead of hormones.