New research project to find the cause of PCOS

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a hormone imbalance that afflicts around five-ten percent of all women aged between 18 and 45. PCOS can cause irregular periods and thereby make it difficult for women to get pregnant. A new research collaboration between Rigshospitalet and the research institution at Imperial College in London will try to uncover the causes of the disease
"We know a great deal about the relationship between PCOS and infertility, and about how to treat woman suffering from the disease. However, we do not know the basic mechanisms causing PCOS, and what exactly takes place in the ovary when a woman develops PCOS," explained Professor Claus Yding Andersen from the Fertility Department at Rigshospitalet.
This is what he will try to clarify in collaboration with two leading experts in the area. With Professor Stephen Franks and Professor Kate Hardy from Imperial College in London, Claus Yding Andersen has received a major grant from the Medical Research Council (UK) for a joint research project to study the causes of PCOS.

The collaboration could make a big difference
"The background for our collaboration is that Stephen Franks is one of the world's leading experts on PCOS. Joining forces and collaborating will allow us to move this research field further than if we were working separately. Collaboration was behind the Medical Research Council’s decision to support the project. The project has also received support locally from Imperial College in London and now also from Rigshospitalet," said Professor Yding Andersen.

When a woman is born, she already has the stock of eggs that is to last for her entire reproductive lifetime. The eggs are surrounded by a single layer of supporting cells (granulosa cells) and are stored in small follicles in the ovaries. Previous studies have shown that women with PCOS produce additional hormones of the type AMH in these small follicles, and that women with PCOS often have more male sex hormones than other women. 

Hope for a new treatment
In the new project, ovarian tissue from women without PCOS will be compared with ovarian tissue from women with PCOS in order to study a number of growth factors significant for reproduction, and to find out whether this can explain the cause of the additional production of hormones. According to Professor Yding Andersen, the new research could have a great impact for the five-ten percent of women between 18 and 45 years who suffer from PCOS.
"If we succeed in uncovering some of the more basic mechanisms for developing PCOS, we may be able to open up new opportunities to influence development of the condition in these women, and at best we may be able to prevent it entirely," said Professor Yding Andersen. The Professor is looking forward to the closer contact with the many exciting research communities in London, and thereby also the possibility to take part in more international research projects.

The project has just received a grant of DKK 7,300,000, primarily from the Medical Research Council that wants to increase focus on this area. Rigshospitalets Research Foundation has supported the project with a post.doc. grant. 

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