Women struggling with fertility understandably want to know why they’re having trouble getting pregnant — and there aren’t always answers. But one new study has clued researchers in to one potentially key piece of the fertility puzzle: bone marrow.
In the study, conducted by Yale researchers and published in the journal PLOS Biology, researchers found that when an egg is fertilized, stem cells from the bone marrow travel through the bloodstream to a woman’s uterus. Those stem cells create important change in the uterine lining — change that’s necessary for the embryo to implant.
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As you probably know, the embryo needs to implant into the uterine lining (endometrium) to create a pregnancy.
“We have always known that two kind of things were necessary for pregnancy,” said Dr. Hugh Taylor, senior author and the Anita O’Keeffe Young Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences at Yale, in a press release. “You must have ovaries to make eggs, and you must also have a uterus to receive the embryo. But knowing that bone marrow has a significant role is a paradigm shift.”
This is particularly good news for women with problems with their endometrium or who’ve experienced repeated pregnancy loss. It offers evidence that bone marrow transplants could eventually be used to heal the endometrium and improve fertility.
“These are frustrating medical conditions,” says Taylor, in the press release. “When you have a damaged endometrium leading to infertility or repeated pregnancy loss, all too frequently we have not been able to correct it. Bone marrow can be considered another critical reproductive organ. This finding opens up a new potential avenue for treatment of a condition that has been untreatable in the past.”