Friday, May 11, 2007

Major flaw in miscarriage test

Fertility treatments designed to suppress the immune system and help women who suffer repeated early miscarriage may be based on bad science

EXPENSIVE fertility treatments designed to suppress the immune system and supposedly help women who repeatedly suffer miscarriages early in pregnancy now appear to be based on bad science. A new study, the largest of its kind so far, shows that the blood test used to determine whether women should be given these treatments is ineffective.

The controversy centres around immune cells called natural killer (NK) cells. NK cells belonging to the mother are found close to the outermost layers of the embryo, and high numbers of them here have been linked to miscarriages. This has led a growing number of fertility clinics to offer tests to measure the level of NK cells in the blood. Women with an excess of such "peripheral" NK cells are often then offered therapies such as steroids or immunoglobulins to dampen the immune system and reduce the number of NK cells in the uterus.

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