A potentially life-threatening complication arising from IVF treatment could be cured with a cup of coffee, according to researchers.
A team of scientists at Middlesex University, working alongside colleagues from Barts, identified high levels of the chemical adenosine in patients suffering from a condition known as ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS).
OHS affects one-third of women undergoing IVF treatment. The majority of cases are mild, causing abdominal pain and a bloated feeling, but in its most serious form it can be life threatening, causing blood clots, kidney damage and ovarian torsion.
The scientists believe IVF drugs stimulate the ovaries thereby increasing adenosine levels, which leads to damage caused by dilated blood vessels and blood fluid leaking into tissue.
Ray Iles, Professor of Biomedical Science at Middlesex University, believes a solution lies in finding a way to reduce the effects of adenosine on a woman’s ovaries, which could be caffeine.
“It may be that a cup of strong coffee with every IVF cycle could reduce the chances of OHSS. Caffeine competes with adenosine for the same receptors, effectively blocking adenosine’s action, and it could therefore potentially treat the cause of this condition.”
Adenosine is normally difficult to detect in blood samples as it is destroyed by blood cell and serum enzymes when taken. Instead, the scientists used a technique called metabolomics, which involves the study of chemical evidence of cellular processes, to detect the high levels of adenosine around the egg.
Usually adenosine is quickly deactivated but in a small percentage of the population a defect in the enzyme prevents it from metabolising quickly, due to alterations in a metabolising enzyme called adenosine deaminase (ADA). It has lead researchers to believe that women who suffer OHSS have a slightly defective ADA enzyme.
Further research at Barts and The London Centre for Reproductive Medicine is underway with IVF patients to establish whether caffeine could be used to help patients suffering from OHSS.
The research has been published in Metabolism Journal.