A study has shown that the risk of generational transmission of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) increases with high levels of androgen during pregnancy. Researchers wanted to find out if there is any factor that increases the likelihood of inheriting PCOS, and their results showed that there is. It’s important to note, however, that the study is still in the early stages.
Around 10% of women around the world experience PCOS. The condition is characterized by the increased presence of androgens, male sex hormones, in a fertile female’s body. While it mainly affects a woman’s reproductive system, PCOS is also closely related to other physical conditions. Type 2 diabetes and obesity usually aggravate the symptoms of PCOS, for example.
The exact cause of PCOS is still unknown, so researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden wanted to find out possible factors that increase its development in women. They studied the daughters of women with PCOS to understand the condition further. They found that they were five times more likely to have the syndrome—leading researchers to hypothesize that it has something to do with development in the womb. In studying the mothers, they found that they have higher levels of androgens and more irregular menstrual cycles than most women.
Scientists also studied mice to test their hypothesis. They were fed an obesogenic diet and exposed to high levels of androgens to mimic the pregnancy conditions they believe caused the development of PCOS. The offspring was given a regular diet and monitored closely as they grew. This process was repeated for three generations of mice. Results showed that one of the major contributors to the offspring’s development of PCOS was high androgen levels during pregnancy.
Researchers are attempting to take it a step further by analyzing the genes of the mice. They want to identify which genes make the transmission of PCOS more likely, and they want to find which biomarkers can have the potential to predict increased risks of transmission during pregnancy. With their research, we are much closer to understanding and preventing a condition that affects so many women around the world.