Fertility Center of Dallas

Immunological Tests

Immunological Tests

The immune system works to protect us from substances that try to invade our bodies (for example, infections), recognizing what is “self” and what is foreign to our system. The immune system makes antibodies, substances that circulate in the bloodstream looking for those foreign substances. They attach to the foreign material, destroying it. White blood cells also play a vital role in protecting us. Certain types of white cells (natural killer cells) actively seek out and destroy abnormal cells. Sometimes these antibodies and killer cells may attack not only foreign substances but also “self.” Rheumatoid arthritis and lupus are two examples of autoantibody disorders.

A pregnancy is usually protected from antibodies and natural killer cells by maternal “blocking” antibodies; however, there are times when the blocking antibodies cannot protect against them, and pregnancy loss occurs. Treatment with drugs commonly used are low dose aspirin and heparin. Abnormal natural killer cell activity has been treated with intravenous immune globulin. If you are diagnosed with an immune problem, therapy will be discussed with you and treatment will be started.

The following substances are evaluated in the immune panel:

  • Antinuclear Antibodies

  • Anticardiolipin Antibodies (Antiphospholipids)

  • Antithyroid Antibodies

  • Rheumatoid Factor

  • Lupus Anticoagulant

Natural killer cells are evaluated by these tests:

  • Reproductive Immunophenotype

  • Natural Killer Cell Activation

Recent studies at the Baylor Center for Reproductive Health have identified patients whose serum contains toxins that cause embryos to stop growing and die. Patients with long-term infertility or multiple miscarriages are more at risk to have this condition. Two subgroups of toxins have been discovered. The first is liposoluble (can be absorbed by lipids or fats), and the second is not dissolvable with lipids (nonliposoluble).

To perform the test, blood is drawn from you and then the cells are separated from the liquid (serum). Mouse 2-cell embryos are placed in a special culture medium with your serum and are cultured in an incubator. One dish has oil that overlays the embryos and culture medium, while the other dish contains only the embryos and the culture medium. The results are obtained several days later as the embryos’ development is evaluated for evidence of toxins.

If your test is positive, treatment can be instituted by infusion of gamma globulin. Gamma globulin is derived from human serum that has been specially prepared by commercial laboratories. It’s given by intravenous infusion over several hours. This treatment is begun prior to ovulation, and if you’re pregnant, will be continued once a month for a total of five doses.

These studies are blood tests that are drawn in the office and sent to outside specialty laboratories. It may take one to two weeks to get the results. The results will be evaluated by your doctor, and you will have the opportunity to discuss your results and treatment options.