[ASC-media] How does an embryo find its way? New targets for infertility treatment

Niall Byrne niall at scienceinpublic.com.au
Mon Aug 14 01:07:22 CEST 2006

Embargo Monday 14 August 10 am 

A young Melbourne researcher has discovered that a compound which
attracts white blood cells to areas of inflammation also plays an
important role in attracting human embryos to the womb, supporting the
establishment of a healthy pregnancy. 

Approximately 1 in 6 Australian couples will experience infertility. A
large part of this may be due to faulty coordination and guidance of the
embryo to the mother's womb.

Natalie Hannan, of Prince Henry's Institute, has found that the compound
fractalkine is also produced by the uterus. To ensure a healthy
pregnancy, the lining of the uterus must produce factors that attract
the embryo to implant and begin to grow. Fractalkine may help the
placenta to form and tap into the mother's blood supply, by guiding the
cells from which it develops to their right destination. 

"In short, fractalkine plays an important role in the establishment of a
healthy pregnancy,"  Hannan of the Uterine Biology Group at Prince
Henry's whose work led to the unravelling of the compound's role," says

"The problem for many infertile couples lies in failure of the embryo to
become properly embedded in the mother's womb. A better understanding of
this complicated process should advance treatments for infertility.

"Although infertility treatment has dramatically improved over the past
few years, more than 75 per cent of in vitro fertilisation (IVF)
attempts will fail. A large part of this may be due to faulty
communication between the mother and the baby, involving compounds such
as fractalkine." 

Hannan says that fractalkine is produced by the lining of the uterus at
the time of implantation, when the embryo makes a special receptor that
enables it to respond to fractalkine. 

Using advanced technology that allows the movement of cells to be
measured, Hannan discovered that human placental cells migrate towards
fractalkine. Without fractalkine and many other similar compounds
involved in the control of the essential processes of early pregnancy,
implantation will fail.  

"This exciting finding may improve IVF success rates by providing new
targets for infertility treatment. It also aids our understanding of
what makes a healthy pregnancy, which is ultimately a successful start
to life," Hannan says. 

Natalie Hannan is one of 16 young scientists presenting their research
to the public for the first time thanks to Fresh Science, a national
program sponsored by the Federal and Victorian Governments. One of the
Fresh Scientists will win a trip to the UK courtesy of British Council
Australia to present his or her work to the Royal Institution.

Also issued today:
*	Taking the bull out of the china shop: Research by Perth
forensic scientist is helping to stem the flood of forgeries entering
the international antiques market 

For further information or an interview contact: Natalie Hannan, Uterine
Biology, Prince Henry's Institute of Medical Research, 0402 296 660 or
Natalie.Hannan at princehenrys.org

Or Alison Noonan, Media officer, (03) 9594 4391 or 0438 501 381.

Media contact for Fresh Science: Jo Gajewski 0429 388 822

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