Study identifies hormone that could help early pregnancy

Scientists at the University of Edinburgh, UK, have identified a hormone that could support early pregnancy by preparing the womb lining for implantation by a fertilised egg.

The study, which was funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC) and published in the journal Fertility and Sterility, tested the effects of a hormone known as DHEA on healthy tissue donated by women in their 40s.

One of the key findings was that treating womb lining cells with DHEA doubled the level of key proteins associated with healthy implantation by a fertilised egg in the earliest stages of pregnancy.

This improvement could be linked to an increase in production of active androgens - hormones found in high levels in men - which also occurred as a result of the DHEA treatment.

Despite these indications, the researchers said it is too early to say if this approach could help women with fertility issues.

Dr Stephen Meader, programme manager for reproductive health at the MRC, said: "This research may be in its early stages, but it's worthwhile because it lays the groundwork to uncovering potential treatments down the road to help women trying to conceive."