A new study has found evidence that the common and debilitating reproductive condition, polycystic ovary syndrome, could start in the brain, not the ovaries, as researchers have long assumed. If verified, the research could change the way we think about the painful and severely misunderstood condition, which affects at least one in 10 women worldwide. Anyone who has polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) - or knows someone with the condition - will be aware of how incredibly frustrating it can be.
Thanks to the variety of symptoms it can cause - from weight gain, large ovarian cysts, difficulty ovulating, acne, facial hair, depression, and agonising and heavy periods - it can take women years to get diagnosed.
Even then, there's very little in the way of treatment options. Most women are simply told to go on the pill or take other hormonal medications to manage their individual symptoms, but not the underlying cause.
In the long-term, PCOS can lead to metabolic disorders, such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and hormonal dysfunction, including infertility. In fact, PCOS is the cause of more than 75 percent of anovulatory infertility, which is infertility caused by a woman not ovulating.
And yet, despite the severity of the condition, researchers still don't understand how PCOS arises and how we can treat it.
Now, researchers led by the University of New South Wales in Australia have shown that mice without receptors for androgens - a group of steroid hormones commonly associated with males, such as testosterone - in their brains can't develop PCOS. But if the androgen receptors in the ovaries are removed, the condition can still arise