A widespread condition, female infertility is the inability to get pregnant or have a successful pregnancy – commonly diagnosed after a woman has failed to get pregnant following 12 months of unprotected sex. According to the CDC, roughly 6 percent of married women aged 15 to 44 years in the United States are infertile. Similarly, approximately 12 percent of women between 15 to 44 years of age in the USA face problems getting pregnant or carrying a pregnancy to term.
It’s well established that women need functioning ovaries, fallopian tubes, and a uterus to get pregnant. Subsequently, conditions affecting any one of these organs can cause female infertility. One of these conditions, thin endometrium, causes infertility by preventing the embryo from attaching to the uterine wall.
This terminates the pregnancy as the embryo must attach to the lining of the uterus or endometrium to survive. To further complicate matters, this condition is notoriously difficult to treat. And for many women, pinpointing just one cause of thin endometrium has proven impossible. Moreover, even though treatments are available to aid in the growth of the uterine lining, none have shown consistent benefits.
Now, researchers led by Shenzen University have developed a new system intended to treat infertility in women with thin endometrium, a condition that can cause female infertility. The team states their microscopic particles stimulated blood vessel growth, thickening the uterine lining of mice. The study is published in the journal ACS Biomaterials Science & Engineering.
Previous studies are unable to provide the specific cause of thin endometrium. Nevertheless, research has indicated that poor blood flow within the uterine wall can be a contributing factor. Despite this, researchers have struggled to find an effective way to encourage the formation of new blood vessels in the uterus. One promising theory, however, involves the use of microspheres to deliver treatment.
Still, current methods for making these tiny particles face challenges, including complex manufacturing systems that produce unworkable spheres of sporadic sizes. Therefore, a streamlined technique for manufacturing homogenous microspheres that can deliver a compound that stimulates blood vessel growth in the endometrium is desirable.
The current study develops uniform microspheres with the ability to deliver an angiogenic agent directly to the uterine lining.
Firstly, the researchers looked to hyaluronic acid, a chemical known to aid in endometrium growth, as the backbone of their microscopic particles. To achieve this, they used a method called electrospray to generate uniform spheres composed of hyaluronic acid. Each sphere was roughly 400 µm in diameter. The spheres were then collected and joined together using ultraviolet light.
The group then manipulated the composition of the spheres to alter their uptake and release of drugs. After this, they loaded the microparticles up with a blood vessel-promoting compound called vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF).
Results show in female mice with thin uterine lining that microspheres containing only the hyaluronic acid caused modest thickening of the tissue compared to the control, but VEGF-loaded spheres generated thicker endometrium. The researchers stress that limits on the spheres’ drug-releasing ability may make multiple treatments necessary for fertility patients. For the future, the researchers state while this data is promising, their system needs further safety testing.
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Michelle is a health industry veteran who taught and worked in the field before training as a science journalist.
Featured by numerous prestigious brands and publishers, she specializes in clinical trial innovation--expertise she gained while working in multiple positions within the private sector, the NHS, and Oxford University.