Study Reveals How PCOS Can Be Passed Down Three Generations

mbg Editorial Assistant By Abby Moore
mbg Editorial Assistant
Abby Moore is an Editorial Assistant at mindbodygreen. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from The University of Texas at Austin and has previously written for Tribeza magazine.
You Are Five Times More Likely To Get PCOS If Your Mother Had It

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Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) affects more than one in 10 adult women and is the leading cause of infertility. The condition is caused by hormonal imbalances that can interfere with ovulation and lead to acne, weight gain, and abnormal facial hair growth. And until recently, researchers had little understanding of how the condition was passed across generations. 

The study, published in Nature Medicine, found women with PCOS have higher levels of the androgen hormone while pregnant, increasing the likelihood for their daughters to develop PCOS later in life. 

In a combination of human and mouse studies conducted by the Karolinska Institute, scientists determined how PCOS is passed down and how many subsequent generations can be affected. 

The human component of the study followed 21 Chilean women whose mothers had PCOS, as well as 14 women whose mothers did not. Researchers also studied data from more than 29,000 Swedish women, of which more than 2,000 had mothers with PCOS. 

In both populations, the scientists found that daughters were five times more likely to develop PCOS if their mothers had it, compared to the women whose mothers were healthy. Symptoms of the women with PCOS included higher levels of androgens, irregular menstrual cycles, and higher body mass indexes, putting them at risk for obesity. 

Those symptoms were then manipulated in mice to make the rodent study more accurate. To do this, researchers fed pregnant mice a diet that facilitated obesity and exposed the mice to high levels of androgen. 

The animals with PCOS traits were more likely to give birth to offspring with PCOS, according to the study. The findings were repeated for up to three generations of mice. 

Comparing the DNA of both the mice and the Chilean humans, researchers noticed four common gene expressions across all generations. Those gene expressions indicate the biomarker that might be responsible for the transfer and development of the disease. 

While research is still in early phases, better understanding this biomarker could help doctors create a genetic test to more accurately and efficiently diagnose PCOS, solving the current problem of underdiagnosing.

While there is currently no cure for PCOS, symptoms can be treated. If you're struggling to manage your PCOS, taking these five actions might help. 

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