Hormones, diabetes and female fertility


Researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center have discovered that the hormones leptin and insulin work together in specific neurons in the hypothalamus of the bran to affect blood sugar levels and female fertility.

Although diabetes and obesity often go hand in hand, Dr. Elmquist said the new findings indicate that a group of brain cells called pro-opiomelanocortin, or POMC, neurons help regulate glucose and insulin independent of food intake and body weight. For this study, mice were genetically engineered to lack both leptin and insulin receptors in their POMC neurons. Prior research has shown that by removing just the leptin receptor or just the insulin receptors there was no impact on body weight or blood sugar. When both receptors are removed, the mice became severely diabetic but not obese. Leptin and insulin must work together.

Surprisingly, it was also discovered that the female mice who were engineered without the leptin and insulin receptors in the POMC neurons had fertility issues similar to those seen in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). They had smaller litter sizes and more matings that failed at reproduction. Researchers discovered that the ovaries of the female mice had more degenerating follicles and occasional cysts while they also had increased levels of testosterone. “Reproductive endocrinology isn’t my area of expertise, but these findings were nonetheless completely unexpected,” Dr. Elmquist said. “We believe this may be one of the first genetic models of polycystic ovary syndrome.”

PCOS is characterized by infertility, elevated testosterone, and insulin resistance. This could be an important research breakthrough for those scientists interested in recreating and studying PCOS in the lab. As many as 10% of childbearing aged women have PCOS. It is the most common hormonal disorder of women in that age range and is the most common cause of infertility, and an important risk factor for early diabetes.

Source: Medical News Today, Science Daily, UT Southwestern Medical Center


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