Reproductive Immunology

Reproductive immunology deals with phenomena and observations, as well as hypotheses regarding immunological processes in reproduction.

Interest in understanding the processes in the fetal maternal border continues to grow ever since it was established that the circulatory system of mother and child are completely separate during pregnancy. As early as 1953, Sir Peter Medawar puzzled over the immunological paradox that an embryo carries both maternal and paternal antigens, and yet is tolerated by the maternal immune system during pregnancy.

This fact simply did not fit the knowledge of the time about immunological processes and the rejection of foreign antigens. Since then, reproductive
immunology has developed into a distinct area of research in reproductive medicine. Researchers are most interested in understanding the processes that maintain the immunological balance, which is a critical factor for the healthy progression of pregnancy. Identifying immunological processes in a healthy pregnancy is in turn a basic requirement for understanding pathological processes. The resulting insights enable clinicians to develop therapeutic approaches for disrupted pregnancies.

The immunological processes involved in maintaining a healthy pregnancy include a number of immune messengers and immunologically effective cells (various lymphocyte groups) in addition to hormones like estradiol, and in particular progesterone. Even if we still don’t fully understand all interrelations of immunological processes during pregnancy, the desire to treat possible immunological defects is on the increase – specifically in light of the extremely stressful situation for couples suffering from infertility.