Researchers have succeeded in restoring hormones essential for fertility that are commonly lost in women who exercise intensively, according to research presented today. The work, by researchers from Imperial College London, is presented this week at the European Congress of Endocrinology in Wrocłow, Poland.
Fertility depends on a range of reproductive hormones. In females, one of these, called luteinising hormone is released from the brain in short bursts every 1-2 hours. When women undergo strict exercise regimes and restrict their calorific intake, energy is diverted away from maintaining their reproductive system. This can lead to lower amounts of LH being released by the brain, resulting in loss of periods. This condition known as hypothalamic amenorrhea (HA) affects 1 in 100 women and 1 in 10 professional female athletes.
Kisspeptin is a hormone responsible for initiating pulses of LH. Previous studies have shown that women who have mutations in the gene coding for kisspeptin do not start puberty normally and can be infertile. In this study, five women between the ages of 18 and 40 suffering from HA were given 8-hour intravenous infusions of either kisspeptin or a saline placebo on six different occasions.
Researchers gave them a different dose of kisspeptin on each visit. At intermediate doses, women who received kisspeptin infusions released more LH and experienced an average of three times more LH pulses within 8 hours than those who received the placebo.
“We’ve shown that in the short term, IV infusions of kisspeptin at certain doses can restore the pulses of LH that are essential for female fertility,” said Dr Channa Jayasena from Imperial College London who is the first-author on the study. The group plans to perform a larger study to confirm their findings. “The long-term aim is to determine whether kisspeptin could be used to treat certain forms of female infertility. If this is viable, it could provide an attractive and possibly less costly alternative to IVF,” said Dr Jayasena.