The team studied the biopsies taken at several stages in the menstrual cycles of 12 women with previous histories of failed IVF treatments and fertility problems, to check if the levels of the protein were altered during the cycle.
Indeed, the team's research went according to plan and they found evidence pointing to the protein's role. The surprise came soon after: Of the 12 women participating in the study, 11 became pregnant during the next round of IVF. The idea of biopsy incisions, basically small wounds, leading to such a positive outcome was counterintuitive, and Dekel realized something interesting was happening. She and her team repeated the biopsies, this time on a group of 45 volunteers, and compared the results to a control group of 89 women who did not undergo biopsy. The results were clear: The procedure doubled a woman's chances of becoming pregnant.
On the basis of this and other evidence obtained from previous studies, the scientists suggest that some form of mild distress, such as a biopsy, may provoke a response that makes conditions in the uterus favorable for implantation.
Dekel and her team are now looking for the exact mechanisms involved when an unreceptive uterus turns receptive following local injury. They are conducting both animal studies and human clinical trials to identify genes that may play a role in this process. In the future, this accidental finding may give birth to new treatments to improve the success rate of IVF or even tackle some types of fertility problems directly.