The polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common and debilitating cause of infertility all over the world. Researchers haven’t been able so far to understand how the syndrome starts, but now there is a new lead.
It seems that researchers were only looking at problems of ovaries, instead of ‘thinking out of the box.’ A recent study claims that the problem starts in the brain. This latest research shows that PCOS can be found before a girl is born.
PCOS Symptoms and Treatment
When a hormone produced by ovaries, it interacts with a set of neurons in the brain of the mother. The interaction has a chain reaction effect that disrupts enzymes in the placenta and causes PCOS symptoms in the baby. The theory makes sense since PCOS is usually transmitted in the family.
PCOS has symptoms related to hormonal imbalance, and it can make women gain weight, develop ovarian cysts, it can make ovulating difficult, periods are heavier and painful. Depression, facial hair, and acne are also symptoms of PCOS.
There are not many treatments available, many of them are hormonal drugs that treat symptoms. Long-term PCOS leads to metabolic disorders (diabetes type 2, cardiovascular disease, or infertility).
Changing the Way We Look at PCOS
However, the new study may change the way we approach PCOS.
Researchers focused on a hormone produced by follicles outside the ovary – antimüllerian hormone (AMH). In previous studies, AMH interacted with neurons in the brain. The neurons caused the pituitary gland to release a hormone that usually surges in ovulation time – luteinizing hormone (LH).
They found that women with PCOS have a constant high level of LH, inhibiting ovulation and also boosting the testosterone.
The researchers then analyzed blood samples from pregnant women in their second trimester. There were four groups of obese and non-obese women with and without the syndrome.
The non-obese group that had PCOS also had AMH levels two-three times higher than the other groups.
Results In Tests on Mice Are Promising
Researchers continued the tests on mouse models, injecting the AMH into pregnant mice to mimic the hormone imbalance.
Researchers found that the next generation of female mice had symptoms similar to PCOS. They concluded that this happens when AMH inhibits the enzyme in the placenta (aromatase) that converts testosterone into estrogen. This way, the fetus can be exposed to too much testosterone and leads to future hormonal changes.
The Next Step – Regulating Hormones
Scientists will have to see if the results in mice happen in women, as human placentas have much more aromatase than the ones in mice.
However, many researchers agree that testosterone levels could be a key component in developing PCOS. The next step researchers plan to make is to see how the fetus is affected when they regulate testosterone during pregnancy.
Rex Austinwas born and raised in Thunder Bay Ontario on the shores of Lake Superior. Apart from running his own podcast (Ice Fishing And Other “Cool” Things), he spends his time canoeing and backpacking in Northern Ontario.. As a journalist Rex has published stories for Global News (Thunder Bay) we well as Buzz Feed and Joystiq. As a contributor to Great Lakes Ledger, Rex most covers science and health stories. Contact Rexhere