Gonadotropins extracted from the urine of post-menopausal women have traditionally been used to stimulate folliculogenesis in the treatment of infertility and in assisted reproductive technology (ART). Products, such as human menopausal gonadotropin (hMG), consist not only of a mixture of the hormones, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinising hormone (LH) and human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), but also other biologically active contaminants, such as growth factors, binding proteins and prions. The actual amount of molecular LH in hMG preparations varies considerably due to the purification process, thus hCG, mimicking LH action, is added to standardise the product. However, unlike LH, hCG plays a very minor role during the natural human menstrual cycle. It is secreted by the embryo and placenta, and its main role is to support implantation and pregnancy. More recently, recombinant gonadotropins (r-hFSH and r-hLH) have become available for ART therapies. Recombinant LH contains only LH molecules. In the field of reproduction there has been controversy in recent years over whether r-hLH or hCG should be used for ART. This review examines the existing evidence for molecular and functional differences between LH and hCG and assesses the clinical implications of hCG-supplemented urinary therapy compared with recombinant therapies used for ART.
Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology, 2014, Vol 12, Issue 1