With one in five women suffering from for polycystic ovarian syndrome, you’re almost certain to know someone living with it – that is, if they even know about it (around 70 per cent of cases go undiagnosed).
As there’s currently no one treatment to cure the complex hormonal condition, most are forced to manage the range of symptoms associated, which include irregular periods, acne, hair loss or excessive growth, depression, weight gain, trouble conceiving and more.
But a cure may be closer than we think, thanks to the results of a new study conducted by the University of New South Wales, which found that the sometimes debilitating condition likely begins in the brain rather than the ovaries.
It has long been hypothosised that high levels of a group of steroid hormones called androgens, like testosterone and usually associated in men, played a role in the development of the syndrome.
But analysing groups of mice, the team discovered that those who had their androgen receptors genetically engineered to be removed in the brain did not develop the condition at all, when those who had their AR receptors missing from just their ovaries did.
“When we silence the action in the brain, the animal is protected against the development of these PCOS traits," said Dr Kirsty Walters, lead study author from the School of Women's and Children's Health, to The Huffington Post.
With this new understanding, medical professionals finally have a better understanding of the syndrome, which in turn could lead to a cure.
“We're now understanding what actually underlies PCOS. If we understand that, then we can start developing treatments targeting the cause of it, rather than the symptoms."
The comfort to sufferers, Dr Walters says, is that scientists are now “looking towards a future where we can actually start to treat the cause of PCOS."
The findings were published in the journal PNAS.