Science May Have Revealed the Cause of PCOS
Thoughts On A Cause
For years, scientists have been working towards finding an explanation for what causes PCOS, or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. It’s been a long, research-intensive journey that many women living with PCOS have found frustrating (to say the least). How can modern medicine not have an answer for the cause, or a real treatment for the condition? Women all over the world are struggling with this condition and yet, it’s only quite recently that scientists think they may have found the elusive answer to this question…the cause of PCOS.
I know what you’re thinking….FINALLY!! If you’re like me, you may be wary about getting your hopes up in getting answers to this condition. You’ve probably been to more doctors than you care to count, many of which may have given you false hope or expectations. This has inevitably led to having false hope, which was then crushed when things didn’t turn out like you hoped they would. Can anyone else out there relate, or is this just me preaching to an empty room 😅.
So back to the cause and the reason for me writing this post. One day not too long ago, I saw that I had a research alerts. I opened it and read the article, only to left in a state of shock. Shock, but I felt a little giddy too, I’ll admit it. Yes, I said giddy – don’t ask why I talk like an old woman 😂. So what was the article, you ask? The article was titled, “Scientists Finally Think They Know What Causes Polycystic Ovary Syndrome – And How To Cure It”. GIRL SAY WHAT?! We all know how rare it is to see cause or cure in the same sentence as PCOS in a research article. This wasn’t the type of scientific article I usually write about here, however (which may also have contributed to my overall giddiness). The article was from a site called IFL Science (which obviously I do, but I’m not sure how reliable that source is), so needless to say I needed to do more digging to authenticate the source and the information.
So there I go, on my research journey….furiously typing to find some good research to authenticate my findings. Don’t you love how nerdy I am, guys? 🤓
I come across an article which gives a great overview on the scientific evidence behind WHY scientists think they’ve found the cause and that further explains the developmental biology around this. I know I can get a little crazy with my scientific explanations sometimes, so I’ve decided to try to include a few sources (that still cite real scientific journals) that are just flat out interesting to read and in non-sciencey terms. Here’s the article I found and below is my explanation of the evidence. As always, please comment or feel free to email me with any questions you have!
Cause of PCOS: Findings
According to the article I referenced above, a hormone called anti-Mullerian hormone is key to the findings on the cause of PCOS. So what is anti-Mullerian hormone and what is its role in causing PCOS?
Anti-Mullerian hormone is a hormone that is produced in the cells of follicles. As women with PCOS, we all know that we have a high amount of follicles – or as we like to think of them, cysts (2). High concentrations of anti-Mullerian hormone (AMH) have been associated with irregular menstruation, and in women with PCOS, concentrations may be as much as 2- to 5- times as high as normal (4). So, let’s get back to causation. Scientists now believe that PCOS may be triggered while we are still in the womb by exposure to high concentrations of AMH (1).
“The syndrome [PCOS] may be triggered before birth by excess exposure in the womb to a hormone called anti-Müllerian hormone (3).”
So what does this mean? Essentially, this condition was passed onto us from our mothers in the womb -making it extremely difficult to pinpoint an actual genetic cause for the condition (until this point in time) since we continue to produce AMH on our own. Now that we are aware of this, doctors are starting to use AMH serum levels (a blood test for AMH) as a measure for diagnosis of PCOS. Mayoclinic lists the levels based on age, but remember that in women with PCOS levels will be elevated as much as 2- to 5- times the normal levels for one’s age (4).
Now I hate to get my hopes up, but I have to admit that having an established cause is great news because this now means that scientists can look for a cure. Studies in mice have been done with a drug called Cetrorelix, an IVF drug routinely used to control women’s hormones (3). Scientists were actually able to reverse the symptoms of PCOS in mice using this drug. 😲
Sit back and soak all of this in for a minute. Really, I’m totally serious. I want you to think about what this could mean and all the possible implications for women that suffer from PCOS. Imagine taking a drug – ONE drug, not five or nine or however many you are currently taking to manage your symptoms – that will actually reverse your symptoms. A drug that will not only treat the symptoms but will actually get to the bottom of what’s causing the condition in the first place. Do we dare be hopeful for a day when this exists? I know I speak for many women with PCOS when I say it’s almost impossible not to hope…
(1) Giacobini et al. Elevated prenatal anti-Müllerian hormone reprograms the fetus and induces polycystic ovary syndrome in adulthood. Nature Medicine. volume 24, pages 834–846 (2018). https://www.nature.com/articles/s41591-018-0035-5
(2) Grynnerup AG1, Lindhard A, Sørensen S. The role of anti-Müllerian hormone in female fertility and infertility – an overview. Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand. 2012 Nov;91(11):1252-60. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0412.2012.01471.x. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22646322 (antimullerian hormone)
(3) Klein, Alice. 14 May 2018. Cause of polycystic ovary syndrome discovered at last. NewScientist. Accessed 9/11/18. https://www.newscientist.com/article/2168705-cause-of-polycystic-ovary-syndrome-discovered-at-last/
(4) Test ID: AMH Antimullerian Hormone (AMH), Serum. 2018. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. Accessed 9/11/18. https://www.mayomedicallaboratories.com/test-catalog/Clinical+and+Interpretive/89711