I went to a lecture with Professor Steven Franks on PCOS which is a depressing and depilating problem that many women have to deal with. I want to help Wellbeing of Women spread the word to get these silent issues on people’s lips, and I knew that I wanted to understand more about PCOS and any implications with fertility and pregnancy.
From sitting in on many Wellbeing of Women talks including ones on Endometriosis and Womb Cancer, I know that we as women need to take our personal health into our own hands, and our aim at My Baba is to get the key information out there and getting better understanding. A common theme I’ve heard seems to come back to obesity, it’s a reoccurring theme with all the above, and health implications of obesity is devastating.
Wellbeing of Women say that “research is limited by funding, not by ideas and enthusiasm” and what they’re striving to do in the future is create a hub of information where all research can come together so nobody wastes time overlapping, and everything is linked. As always at My Baba, we seek to find clear guidance for women from experts in the field, and we asked Wellbeing of Women to share with us a list of things to look out for when it comes to PCOS.
This project aims to discover new information about the key genetic factors involved in the development of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, in order to develop new treatments.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is the most common hormone disorder in women, affecting between 5-10% women of reproductive age. It is a major cause of infertility and causes distressing skin problems (acne and unwanted body hair), which adversely affects women’s quality of life and often causes serious depression. PCOS is also associated with risks to long-term health and, in particular, there is a three-fold increase in the risk of developing type 2 diabetes in later life. Infertility in women with PCOS is due to infrequent or absent ovulation (the monthly release of an egg). It can usually be corrected with available treatments but many women remain infertile and/or have persistent skin problems.
There is strong evidence to suggest that genetic factors play a major role in PCOS but the causes of the syndrome are still not fully understood. Recent studies into the abnormal function of the ovaries, however, demonstrate the importance of disordered hormone signals that control the ovaries. Based on the evidence, our research team proposes that there are key differences between normal and polycystic ovaries in the way that key genes are expressed and that many of these differences can be attributed to the actions of androgen (the male hormone) that is found in excess in women with PCOS.
They will, therefore, study how genes are expressed in cells from the ovary in women with and without PCOS. Using the latest technology, our researchers will look at multiple genes in ovarian cells which are taken from women undergoing IVF at the time of collection. Professor Franks and his team will work in collaboration with colleagues in the IVF unit at the Hammersmith Hospital, who will provide the cells needed for the studies, together with anonymised data on the women voluntarily participating in the project.
The cells, known as granulosa-lutein, are obtained at the time of egg collection and are normally discarded because they are not needed for the IVF procedure. Instead these cells will be collected from individual patients and transported to the laboratory to be prepared for analysis, including culturing them for up to 48 hours. The main technique that the team will use to analyse gene expression is called Next Generation Sequencing, which will allow them to look at a very large number of genes.
The aim of the project is to find out what the important genetic differences are between women with and without PCOS. This will help doctors to make an early diagnosis in adolescent girls and to identify women at risk of infertility or long-term health complications. Most excitingly, this information will be directly clinically applied to improve the quality of life of women with PCOS and to design new drugs to treat women with this condition.
Professor Stephen Franks, who leads the project, is an eminent reproductive specialist, funded early in his career by Wellbeing of Women. He has a longstanding interest in disorders of ovulation in women and, in particular, PCOS. He is also medical advisor to the PCOS support group, Verity. He will be supported by Professor Kate Hardy, a reproductive biologist, whose knowledge of ovarian follicle development is essential to an understanding of common clinical abnormalities
PCOS support group Verity is on hand to support women suffering from the condition.