Did you know that between 5% and 10% of American women in a healthy childbearing age-range suffer from polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS(1)? This condition is directly associated with an imbalance in a woman’s reproductive hormones, ultimately leading to her enduring a number of other health problems such as irregular periods and even infertility (1). Many scientists have dedicated their lives to solving this complicated issue, many to no avail, but is it possible that we have just recently discovered a cure?
How To Improve Polycystic Ovary Syndrome?
Scientists and other healthcare professionals together have dedicated time, energy, and resources to studying this health condition in women, hoping to understand not only its cause but also an idea for how to manage the symptoms and hopefully treat the foundational issue by developing a cure (1). Experts have recently identified that as much as 30% of infertility in couples can be traced back to PCOS, highlighting the abundant importance in understanding and reducing this health issue (1, 2).
“Nature Medicine” published a study this year that provides some vital discoveries relating to the cause of PCOS (3). In particular, this study presents a great deal of information on the cause of the associated hormonal imbalances, focusing on the actions we make throughout our lives that might lead to them occurring (1, 3). The study’s authors theorized that the condition might possibly be the result of a hormonal imbalance that was present even before birth (1).
The study’s team examined the hormone anti-Mullerian, which – since they believe women who end up developing PCOS were first exposed to the condition in the womb – were triggered into the condition by this hormone (1). In order to examine this relationship, however, the team had to replicate the entire situation, and they did this while based out of the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (1). They injected an excess of anti-Mullerian hormone into a number of pregnant mice then monitored the mice’s offspring as they matured, then watched the mice specifically for any signs of PCOS as they reached puberty: fewer offspring, delayed puberty, and infrequent ovulation (1).
PCOS And Hormone Imbalance
This test not only revealed a direct connection between an exposure to anti-Mullerian hormone and the development of PCOS, but it also helped direct the team towards testing for a potential cure (1)! After discovering this relationship between anti-Mullerian hormone exposure and PCOS, the team used the IVF drug, cetrorelix, that is currently being used to manage women’s hormones in treatments of fertility (1, 4). When the team injected this drug into the mice, they discovered that the mice soon ceased showing PCOS symptoms (1).
Now, it’s important to understand that the study has only been implemented on mice, though the team does believe that this is the first promising step towards developing a cure for PCOS (1). According to Robert Norman, a professor of reproductive and periconceptional medicine at the University of Adelaide in Australia, “It’s a radical way of thinking about polycystic ovary syndrome and opens up a whole range of opportunities for further investigation” (1, 5). The team believes that researchers have struggled for so long to find the cause of PCOS because they have focused all their efforts on women already living with PCOS, but by taking an entirely new approach to the condition, they believe they’ve happened upon a breakthrough (1).
Norman doesn’t disagree (1). Since anti-Mullerian hormone levels tend to decrease over the course of time, Norman thinks this explanation might perfectly solve the question as to why women suffering from PCOS often find it much easier to get pregnant after reaching their late 30s and early 40s (1). Hormone levels actually drop far enough to allow for improved fertility in older women suffering from PCOS (1).
While this study obviously leaves many questions unanswered and requires a great deal of additional research before a concrete conclusion is reached, it provides hope for women suffering from PCOS (1). A condition that once had little to no explanation might soon be understood!