The research found a significant difference in IVF success rates when embryos were transferred while this molecule was present or absent on the surface of the uterus.
“Every embryo is precious for families struggling with infertility, so getting the timing right is critical,” said Nie, who leads the Implantation and Pregnancy Research Laboratory in the School of Health and Biomedical Sciences at RMIT.
“We hope with further development our discovery could help clinicians identify precisely when each patient has the greatest chance of achieving pregnancy, delivering fully personalised IVF treatment.”
The findings, published in the journals Fertility and Sterility and Human Reproduction, could have significant implications for IVF treatment and success rates.
Pregnancy success rates
The retrospective clinical study, co-designed by Nie and Professor Luk Rombauts from Monash IVF, examined levels of the anti-implantation molecule, known as podocalyxin (PCX), in the endometrium of 81 women undergoing IVF treatment.
A biopsy of the uterus was taken at the mid-luteal phase (about seven days after ovulation) of the women’s menstrual cycle, one full cycle before a frozen embryo was transferred.
While the women with low levels of PCX had a 53% pregnancy success rate, those women where the molecule had not been reduced had a success rate of just 18%.
Rombauts said measuring levels of PCX at the mid-luteal phase can be used as a screening test but it could also indicate a reason for infertility, making the molecule a potential target for treatment.
“These findings offer a promising path for us to both improve IVF success rates and potentially treat an underlying cause of infertility,” he said.