A new drug that may be able to improve fertility for women with ovulatory problems has been showcased by researchers at Imperial College London.
The drug, called MVT-602, works by modifying the activity of kisspeptin, making it more potent, stable and water-soluble. Kisspeptin is an important reproductive hormone involved in the release of two other hormones from the pituitary gland – luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) – that regulate maturation and release of egg cells.
'This is the first study to show that a single dose of MVT-602 can induce a longer duration of hormonal stimulation in women than naturally occurring kisspeptin,' said study author Dr Ali Abbara, National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) clinician scientist at Imperial College London. 'Therefore, it reveals exciting potential to treat a range of reproductive health conditions using MVT-602 and offer women improved treatment options.'
In the study, published this week in the Journal of Clinical Investigations, twenty-four women were injected with the drug and their levels of LH and FSH were measured over several days. Twelve of the women had no ovulatory problems; six had hypothalamic amenorrhea (HA), characterised by a lack of ovulation; and six had polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), an endocrine disorder which presents with enlarged ovaries and irregular periods.
The drug was able to stimulate a similar LH peak to kisspeptin alone in all groups, but showed a longer duration of action – with the peak remaining high for an extended time. A particularly strong response was observed in women with HA.
Previous work has shown that kisspeptin is able to stimulate ovarian function for IVF treatment, without increasing the risk of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS). However, the effect of kisspeptin is short-lasting and frequent administration reduces its effectiveness, limiting its applicability. The authors suggest MVT-602 application may be able to improve its application.
'Our previous work showed that kisspeptin can be used to stimulate ovulation in women undergoing IVF treatment, but there are some limitations on using the naturally occurring kisspeptin hormone as its effectiveness wares off after a few hours,' said lead author Professor Waljit Dhillo, research professor in endocrinology and metabolism at Imperial College London. 'This study suggests that MVT-602 can stimulate kisspeptin over a longer period of time with no side effects, which means we could potentially use it to treat a wider range of reproductive disorders.'
It is important to note this is a small study and further work is needed. Dr Bassel Wattar, NIHR academic clinical lecturer in women's health at the University of Warwick, who was not involved in the study said: 'Though promising, the findings are very early and experimental, far away from being used in clinical practice to help subfertile women with ovulatory problems.'