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Where is the Future of Fertility Testing Heading?

A recent study presented at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE), where human hair was tested for AMH, concluded that testing hair was a better indication of the levels of AMH in a woman than testing blood samples.

October 12, 2020
Alisha Chunara

In the blood test that is taken, higher levels of AMH will reveal that there is a larger quantity of viable eggs, so a woman has better chances of being able to conceive and there is more time for her to try and get pregnant. 

In addition, if IVF treatment is being taken by a woman, she will respond better to the treatment. However, lower levels of AMH mean there are fewer eggs, so a woman can have trouble getting pregnant. Also, a woman with lower levels of AMH would not respond well to IVF treatment. So, it is crucial to know the accurate levels of AMH in a woman, and if the study by ESHRE continues to showcase the same results of human hair testing for AMH, testing hair could replace testing blood for accurate levels of AMH.

Microscopic picture of sperm swimming towards egg
If IVF is being considered, then it is very important to be fully aware of the levels of AMH. Image courtesy of Monash IVF

Examining the study

The study by ESHRE was conducted in this manner:

“The study, which still continues,...[has so far reported] results from 152 women from whom hair and blood samples were routinely collected during hospital visits. AMH measured in serum from the same subjects was used to provide a control, as was an ultrasound count of developing follicles in the ovary (AFC) as a further measure of ovarian reserve” (European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology).

Human hair testing is a better alternative to testing blood samples just from the discovery of better measurements of AMH levels found in hair during the conduction of the study, as the study found that:

“‘Biologically relevant’ AMH levels were successfully detected in the hair samples, with levels declining with patient age, as expected…[a]s ovarian reserve declines with age…” (European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology). In addition, hair can cultivate “biomarkers” over a longer period of time, like weeks or even months, while blood can only reveal the current levels of hormones present in an individual at the time when the blood was drawn. Also, the hormone levels in blood can also be altered due to any sort of stimuli, while the levels of hormones remain static in hair. Therefore, when researchers conducting the study discovered that the Anti-Mullerian hormone is collected in the shafts of hair over months, while the AMH levels in blood can change in a couple of hours, they came to the conclusion that measuring the levels of AMH in hair would be a more beneficial method. This way, the average levels of AMH of an individual can be determined by examiners.

There is another benefit to testing AMH levels in hair that was realized in the study: it can be deduced that the practical benefits of testing human hair for AMH levels are worthwhile. It is a much less painful process to test hair than to test blood, as testing hair requires only the plucking of hair, which can be done at home, while testing blood requires traveling to an accessible clinic and having blood drawn in a process that can take around 5 minutes.

Picture of baby pulling woman's hair while woman is smiling
The future of fertility testing now rests on the acceptability of testing hair. Image courtesy of NewScientist

Conclusion

Testing for fertility should be an uncomplicated and easily accessible procedure for women who need to know their conditions for bearing a child. There should be no complications or much complexities in this matter, as the process of conceiving and giving birth to a child should be as smooth of a process as possible. The decision to have or not have children should not be taken lightly, and should be taken after being fully informed about all of the options that women can choose from.

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