For immediate release
Can influenza vaccination before an IVF cycle improve pregnancy rates? At a New York fertility center, physicians are trying to find out if a flu vaccine can modulate a mother’s immune system for better implantation and lower risk of miscarriages.
NEW YORK, NY, (March 28, 2017)– In last week’s SCIENCE Magazine, published March 23, 2017, science writer Mitch Leslie featured in a lengthy article a clinical trial, conducted by Scientists at New York City’s Center for Human Reproduction (CHR), which attempts to determine whether infertility patients’ in vitro fertilization (IVF) pregnancy rates can be improve if they receive a flu vaccination shortly before IVF cycle start.
The hypothesis of the trial is not as far-fetched as it may appear on first impression since large scale studies around the world, conducted to establish the safety of flu vaccinations in pregnancy, not only, indeed, determined their safety but, in addition, surprisingly, demonstrated significantly reduced premature labor rates in women who received the vaccinations. Premature labor is by some scientists increasingly viewed as premature termination of the required immunological tolerance by the maternal immune system the fetus must receive since it represents, in an immunological sense, a solid organ transplant from the father of the fetus which, otherwise, should be rejected by the mother’s immune system.
CHR’s investigators hypothesized based on these observations that flu vaccinations extended immunological tolerance in women who, otherwise, may have experienced premature labor and, therefore, reduced their premature delivery rates. They further hypothesized that, if Influenza vaccinations can extend tolerance in later pregnancy stages, maybe they can also help induce tolerance at the beginning of pregnancy, when it appears essential for establishing pregnancy. Increasing evidence has suggested that the ability of embryos to implant in IVF cycles (and during spontaneous conceptions) may be negatively affected if maternal tolerance is inadequate at time of embryo implantation, and that inadequate tolerance also increases early miscarriage risks.
Scientists at CHR in this study, therefore, are planning on assessing whether flu vaccinations improve implantation rates and lower miscarriage rates. Should that, indeed, be the case, they also intend to isolate the specific pathways in a mother’s immune system that may be responsible for development of tolerance. Should that be possible, potential therapeutic consequences would not only be important for fertility treatments but, possibly, also for organ transplantation, autoimmunity and, in reverse, for cancer treatments, all medical conditions either affected in positive or negative ways by the development of immunological tolerance.
The Center for Human Reproduction (CHR) is a leading clinical fertility and research center of international renown, located in New York City. It maintains research affiliations with multiple leading academic research institutions in New York City, elsewhere in the U.S. and in Europe, and serves a world-wide patient clientele. Norbert Gleicher, MD, CHR’s Medical Director and Chief Scientist, is available for further inquiries.