Friday, November 30, 2007

Mums on fertile soil

A GROUNDBREAKING test offered only at St George Hospital to pinpoint the underlying cause of recurrent miscarriage and unexplained infertility is now being widely used to help women desperate to become mums.

In the past two years, more than 300 women have undergone a two-part test pioneered by Gavin Sacks to look for miscarriage-causing natural killer cells. Up to 25 per cent were found to harbour excessive levels.

Dr Sacks, an obstetrician/gynaecologist who holds a PhD in reproductive immunology, spent 10 years examining the link between natural killer cells and female infertility before perfecting the test.

The English-born doctor uses a sophisticated Flow Activated Cytometric Sorter at St George Hospital to pinpoint the cells taken during a blood test and uterus biopsy.

"In some instances, a mother's immune system turns on itself and rejects her own pregnancies," Dr Sacks said.

"We have found that high levels of natural killer cells in the blood and uterus are significant miscarriage risk factors.

"In conducting this research we hope to progress the diagnosis and treatment of women who suffer miscarriage, particularly recurrent miscarriage."

Unlocking the underlying cause of miscarriages caused by natural killer cells has enabled him to perfect drug treatments to keep levels under control, resulting in more than 20 successful pregnancies so far.

Dr Sacks' research has drawn widespread interest, with other fertility specialists now routinely sending their patients' blood and uterus samples to St George Hospital for testing.

He recently presented his research at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine and the Fertility Society of Australia's annual conferences. But he stressed his work was still in the experimental stage.

The test is available through IVF Australia southern Sydney and St George Hospital.


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