Researchers May Have Found a Cause and Treatment for PCOS

Researchers may have discovered a cause of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), and it happens way before symptoms present themselves. A hormonal imbalance that occurs before birth may lead to a diagnosis later in life.

One out of 10 women have PCOS, a syndrome typically characterized by high levels of testosterone, irregular menstrual cycles and ovarian cysts. PCOS can also affect how those with the condition regulate sugar, which predisposes them to diabetes. Symptoms can include hair thinning, facial hair growth, painful periods, weight gain, infertility and more.

Researchers at the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research looked at anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH) exposure in the womb. AMH is released by follicles near the ovaries and communicates with the brain, which then releases another hormone, luteinizing hormone. This hormone is responsible for ovulation, but too much (as in the case of women, nonbinary or trans men with PCOS) prevents ovulation and can make conceiving difficult. To much luteinizing hormone also leads to higher levels of testosterone, a hallmark of PCOS.

Researchers found that those with PCOS who were pregnant had higher amounts of AMH compared to those without PCOS. The researchers wanted to test if the excess levels could lead to PCOS symptoms in their children.

To test this theory, researchers injected AMH into pregnant mice. Once the offspring grew up, the females showed signs of PCOS.

Now that researchers have a better idea of what may cause PCOS, they’ve turned their sights to treatments. Researchers tested a hormone suppression drug used during in-vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments on the mice with PCOS, which eliminated their symptoms. The drug, cetrorelix, suppresses ovulation, allowing eggs to mature and be used for IVF, a reproductive process in which the eggs are fertilized outside the body and placed into the uterus.

“It’s a radical new way of thinking about polycystic ovary syndrome and opens up a whole range of opportunities for further investigation,” Robert Norman, a researcher not involved in the study and from the University of Adelaide in Australia, told New Scientist.

While these are promising signs of a potential treatment for PCOS, the findings were from mice and duplication in humans might not be possible. Researchers are hoping to start a human drug trial later this year.

Photo via Getty Images/magicmine

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