Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)-the leading cause of infertility in women-could be triggered in the womb, according to scientists who have reversed the little-understood condition in mice. The condition is typically characterised by high levels of testosterone, ovarian cysts, irregular menstrual cycles, and problems regulating sugar, but the causes have always been a mystery.
The most common cause of female infertility - polycystic ovary syndrome - may be caused by a hormonal imbalance before birth. PCOS Awareness Association shared this article with our followers from around the world and there is a great deal of hope and excitement that future generations will not have to suffer the way 10 million women with PCOS suffer today.
PCOS effects up to 5 million US women, according to the CDC, and those with PCOS have higher levels of male hormones called androgens, which can result in the absence of ovulation (leading to infertility).
The team, lead by Paolo Giacobini at the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research, realised levels of anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH) were 30% higher in pregnant women with PCOS than those without.
As the syndrome is known to run in families, researchers wanted to test the idea that the imbalance in the pregnancy may induce the same condition in daughters as well.
The overexposure to AMH in the womb caused an "overstimulation of a particular set of brain cells called GnRH neurons", IFL Science reported. As their female offspring grew up, they displayed numerous hallmarks of polycystic ovary syndrome, including later puberty, infrequent ovulation, delays in falling pregnant, and fewer offspring.
After treatment with the IVF drug used to control women's hormones, "cetrorelix", the mice stopped exhibiting the PCOS symptoms.
"It's a radical new way of thinking about polycystic ovary syndrome and opens up a whole range of opportunities for further investigation", says Norman.
They will be planning to trial the drug in humans to take place later this year.
If the syndrome is indeed passed from mothers to daughters via hormones in the womb, that could explain why it's been so hard to pinpoint any genetic cause of the disorder, says Norman.
"It could be an attractive strategy to restore ovulation and eventually increase the pregnancy rate in these women", Giacobini said.