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New Discovery May Help Treat Infertility

Based on findings of a recent study researchers say that latest research suggests that medications //commonly referred to as fertility drugs may be ineffective for women who lack a gene called the estrogen receptor beta. The study also showed that fertility drugs did not improve ovulation rates in mice that were genetically engineered to lack estrogen receptor beta. The estrogen receptor beta is one of two estrogen receptor proteins which mediate the effects of estrogen hormones and are present throughout the female reproductive tissues. The new data indicates that this receptor plays a critical role in ovulation, and suggests that women who do not have this receptor may benefit more from alternative infertility treatments.

Researchers say they have found that the beta estrogen receptor plays a role in moving the egg outside the ovary so it can be fertilized. They also say that if the results from the recent study on animals are found to be applicable to humans, a simple blood test will be able to provide enough information to determine if a genetic mutation may be altering the function of the estrogen receptor beta. The results of this blood test, coupled with information from other medical tests and evaluations conducted by the physician, will help diagnose infertility and better determine treatment options.

Studies done over the years have shown that the hormone estrogen plays an important role in a variety of systems, most especially female reproduction. However, it was generally thought that there was only one receptor, the alpha receptor, that responded to estrogen. It wasn’t until 1996 that the second receptor, estrogen receptor beta, was discovered. The current study provides evidence that the beta receptor plays a more significant role in ovarian function than the alpha receptor. Thus researchers say they would like to further their investigation into the role of the beta receptor by studying women already undergoing fertility tr eatment.

Recent studies have also made use of a test tube or in vitro approach, to elucidate the role that estrogen receptors play in ovulation and the combination of the two different methods, the in vivo and in vitro studies, complement each other nicely and provide more precise answers to the role that the estrogen receptor beta plays in ovulation say researchers.

Thus by making couples understand the reasons for their infertility, researchers say doctors can further define their treatment options, help them to minimize the expense and risk of taking drugs that may be less effective for them, and increase their chances of having a safe and healthy child.

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