Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, more commonly known by its short form PCOS, is a hormonal imbalance that affects fertility among women of reproductive age; as a matter of fact, it is the most common cause of female infertility throughout the world.
“It’s by far the most common hormonal condition affecting women of reproductive age, but it hasn’t received a lot of attention,” Robert Norman – Professor of Reproductive and Periconceptual Medicine the Robinson Institute at the University of Adelaide, Medical Director, as his Linkedin profile reads – told the New Scientist.
The good news is that a recent study conducted by researchers at the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research suggests that a possible cure may be just around the corner, so to speak.
The team discovered that the onset of the syndrome is, perhaps, triggered before birth by an imbalance of a hormone known as anti-Müllerian (AMH), which recalibrates the fetus in a way that induces Polycystic Ovary Syndrome in adulthood.
Their findings showed that pregnant women afflicted with PCOS have as much as 30 percent higher levels of AMH than normal, and as the syndrome tends to be hereditary, the researchers wanted further proof of their conviction that the imbalance was likely to be passed on to the female child.
So, the team ran some tests on pregnant mice, injecting them with anti-Müllerian hormone and observing their female offspring as they grew up, to find that a large majority of them displayed symptoms of the dreaded syndrome, including “delayed vaginal opening, delayed puberty onset, severely disrupted estrous cyclicity” – which, basically means grossly irregular reproductive cycle – “impaired fertility and “no difference in body weight.”
The presence of excess AMH in the mice, apparently, over-stimulated a group of brain cells that cause testosterone levels to rise abnormally, which, in turn, triggered the onset of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.
The team then treated the affected mice with cetrorelix – a common IVF drug used to control hormones in women – and the results were very encouraging, indeed, as the mice stopped showing PCOS-related symptoms.
Obviously, with results as heartening as this, the team is now looking to take it to the next level by starting clinical trials of the drug on women suffering from PCOS, sometime later this year.
“It could be an attractive strategy to restore ovulation and eventually increase the pregnancy rate in these women,” Paola Giacobini, who is part of the research team, told New Scientist.
More about Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome symptoms are triggered by elevated levels of androgens, or male hormones, like testosterone.
Some of the signs that point toward the syndrome may include irregular menstrual cycle, heavy or no menstrual periods, pain in the pelvic area, conception issues, dark skin patches, and even excess body and facial hair.
Related symptoms may include Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), which, basically, means breathlessness during sleep, mood swings, heart ailments, type2 diabetes, and even endometrial cancer, or cancer of the uterus lining.
Now that we know that elevated levels of testosterone somehow trigger the PCOS symptoms, you might want to ask what causes the male hormone to increase in the first place.
Well, it’s the result of a combination of hereditary and environmental factors, such as obesity, lack of physical activity, and history of PCOS within the family.
Diagnosis is based on two of these three test results: high testosterone, ovarian cysts, and no ovulation.
Women with PCOS are more likely to get pregnant in their late thirties and early forties because of the simple fact that AMH levels are known to reduce with age, which effectively means that these women get back closer to normal fertility as the anti-Müllerian hormone levels in the body decline.