Immune cells `key to women`s infertility, miscarriages`

Last Updated: Oct 20, 2009, 00:00 AM IST

Washington: A new study has shed fresh light on why some women are infertile and why some pregnancies end in miscarriage, after researchers found that immune cells have an important role to play in both the cases.

An international team has examined the role of a type of immune cells known as macrophages or white blood cells within the ovary, which are found in abundance near developing eggs and in hormone-producing structures within the ovary.

The researchers conducted experiments on mice and found that when these cells are depleted there`s a significant reduction in the amount of progesterone the ovary produces.

Progesterone is a hormone produced by the ovary which is essential for the maintenance of early pregnancy.

"We know that the ovary requires a vascular network in order to deliver the high levels of progesterone the body requires to maintain early pregnancy. The formation of this network occurs very quickly following ovulation, and macrophages may be involved in establishing that blood supply.

"It appears that the ovary has its own specialist pathway to achieve this and that macrophages have an essential role in building the blood supply that we hadn`t previously appreciated.

"This research identifies immune system cells as critical determinants of normal ovarian activity and the maintenance of early pregnancy. This might be a key to helping prevent early pregnancy loss, such as recurrent miscarriage," team leader Alison Care of Adelaide said.

The scientists said a number of factors -- such as smoking, obesity, poor nutrition and stress -- could all alter the way macrophages behave and may provide reasons for infertility or miscarriage in some women.

Bureau Report