Reproductive Immunology

What is reproductive immunology?

Reproductive Immunology is a field of medicine that studies the interactions between the immune system and the reproductive system.

For a successful implantation of an embryo, and a subsequent normal pregnancy, the immune system must be in optimal condition, so it will react in a “special” way towards the “new invader”. This reaction is observed in every pregnancy, and we believe that is a vital part of normal embryo implantation. The characteristic of this immunological reaction is that, a few hours after the implantation, the immune system will ease off, it will become underactive, thus optimizing embryo development.

It is currently widely accepted that some women may overreact towards the embryos and this may result in unsuccessful implantation or early miscarriage or, more rarely, in developmental problems during pregnancy.

What is immunological screening?

The immunological screening is a relative recent and important development in the field of assisted conception. Its purpose is to analyse the immune system to reveal what is causing infertility, recurrent miscarriage or repeated failure of IVF and other tendencies related to successful implantation.

Immunological screening requires the woman to undergo a profile of blood tests to explore the current state of her the immune system. At Life Clinic the reproductive immunological testing is focused on 3 areas:

  • the detection of local inflammation signs in the body
  • the assessment of the T and B WHITE CELL condition and activity and the CYTOKINES ratio (TH1 TH2 HELPER Cells)
  • the assessment of the response to various medications, so the best option will be used
Foetus immune treatment
After years of failed attempts to get pregnant and to keep a pregnancy we decided to get help from Life Clinic and Dr Dimitri Papanikolaou. We can truly recommend his expertise on immunological problems and fertility. They made us feel well taken care of and have provided professional support through out the whole process.
We are convinced that without Dr Dimitri Papanikolaou’s help we wouldn’t have our wonderful little baby girl. We are forever thankful for the help we got from Life Clinic!
Jenny Mentzer (Sweden)

Immune blood tests

The blood tests required for the investigation are a combination of simple and more specific tests, aiming at understanding particular immune system tendencies and its current overall condition.

Blood samples are sent by courier and on the same day, to the USA (Chicago University), for specialised testing. The results take approximately 2 weeks, at which point a follow up consultation is scheduled, the findings will be explained, and a plan for the immunological support required will be made, specifically in line with these results, so as to maximise the chances of a successful pregnancy.

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Immunological imbalance and infertility

The link between Immunological imbalances and infertility, pregnancy and miscarriage, is a relatively new field of research and clinical investigations are still on-going. As a result, for a lot of doctors this treatment is controversial and schools of thought between assisted conception specialists differ. Over time, more and more doctors and clinics have started looking seriously into this field. Nowadays the immunological approach to fertility is becoming increasingly widespread and commonly accepted and pursued by most leading clinics in this area.

The investigation and treatment of immune-related infertility has resulted in successful pregnancy outcomes for many couples who would otherwise be considered as having ‘unexplained infertility‘ and be unable to parent their own children. In such cases, the reason behind their fertility issues or recurrent miscarriage was due to an imbalance of the maternal immune system and preventing a healthy natural pregnancy.

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Further reading on immune-related infertility

For a more in-depth review of immune screening and its implications in fertility medicine, please refer to the following journal articles and websites.

Reproductive Immunology: Checkered Past and Bright Future

Fertility and Sterility Journal vol106 coverThe immune system plays an irrefutable role in normal fertility and successful applications of immunology have become standard part of evidence-based clinical practice. The field of reproductive immunology will clearly be a future source of significant improvement in the prevention and treatment of many reproductive disorders…..

Read the article here

Young, S.L., Fertility and Sterility, Sep 2016; 106(3): 497–498

An immune clock of human pregnancy

Science Immunology Vol 15 coverOn the Clock. During pregnancy, the mother’s organ systems, including her immune system, adapt to the growing fetus.

Aghaeepouret al. chart immune system adaptations during the course of a human pregnancy. This immunological time line is critical for healthy mothers and babies.

Read the article here

Aghaeepour et al., Science Immunology, Sep 2017; Vol 2Issue 15

The womb is a war zone: Is the immune system the enemy or the ally?

TEDTALKS LOGOIn this talk, Lauren St-Germain discusses reproductive immunology and how immune imbalance can make pregnancy less healthy and cause complications.

In pregnancy, the mother’s womb is commonly thought to be a safe and nurturing environment; but in reality, it’s a warzone.

Watch the TedTalk here

TedTalk, Lauren St-Germain, PhD researcher at UBC Faculty of Medicine,  April 2021

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