Daily Mail

Balloon to treat women’s infertilit­y and weight gain


ATiny balloon filled with hot water could help millions of women overcome problems with their fertility. The radical treatment is also expected to treat acne, facial hair growth and weight gain caused by polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a condition that affects one in five women in the UK.

Thirty patients are being recruited to a clinical trial at imperial College London to see if the balloon, no bigger than a grain of rice, could cure PCOS — a major cause of infertilit­y.

if the trial, due to complete in summer 2019, is successful, the treatment, which takes just over an hour, could transform pregnancy rates among women with PCOS.

The procedure improves the way the body reacts to insulin. Around 70 per cent of PCOS cases are due to insulin resistance, where the body’s cells become less sensitive to the hormone that helps muscles absorb sugar from blood to use as fuel.

As this resistance builds, the pancreas — the gland in the abdomen which makes insulin — reacts by pumping out even more of it.

When insulin accumulate­s in the female body, it can increase testostero­ne and lead to weight gain, acne and hirsutism. This hormonal disruption can slash the number of times a woman ovulates from around 12 times a year to, in some cases, zero.

But scientists hope that by using the balloon to restore normal menstrual cycles, they can bolster the chances of pregnancy in women with PCOS. Current approaches include encouragin­g patients to lose weight (as weight gain affects insulin sensitivit­y), or treatment with diabetes drugs such as metformin.

The tiny balloon burns away some of the lining of the intestine. Doctors insert a thin tube with the deflated silicon balloon on the end down the patient’s throat. Once it reaches the duodenum — the foot-long part of the intestine where much of our food is digested — it is inflated and hot water pumped through it.

As it is pressed against the duodenum, the hot balloon sears the surroundin­g tissue.

Called Revita, the device is already used for type 2 diabetes because the burning process, ablation, burns off cells which have become resistant to insulin.

This allows new cells to form which are not insulin-resistant. in diabetes, this means glucose levels fall and circulatio­n improves, reducing the dangers of stroke and heart attack. in PCOS, scientists hope, it will increase ovulation — the point in the menstrual cycle when an egg is released from the ovaries — and the chances of conception.

endocrinol­ogist Dr Alex Miras, part of the team running the trial, says PCOS sufferers in the trial will be aged 18-45, have irregular periods and signs of insulin resistance but not diabetes.

HALfwill undergo the Revita treatment and the rest will think they’re having it done but no ablation will be carried out.

‘Lack of periods can cause an 80 per cent reduction in fertility,’ said Dr Miras, ‘ but we know tackling insulin resistance kickstarts the menstrual cycle. it’s a one- off procedure that could restore fertility.’

Dr Diana Mansour, a consultant in sexual and reproducti­ve healthcare at newcastle- upon-Tyne Hospitals nHS foundation Trust, welcomed the trial. She said: ‘There is some evidence it helps in type 2 diabetes, so for women with PCOS with insulin resistance it may be of some benefit. But we need to see the full results before getting too excited.’

ReSeARCHeR­S at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester in the U.S. have found that women with PCOS are nearly three times more at risk of depression and anxiety than those without the disorder. They called for GPs to screen PCOS sufferers for signs of mental health problems caused by their illness, according to a report in the journal endocrine.

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