Press Release

Improved PCOS symptoms correlate with gut bacterial composition

New Orleans, LA March 23, 2019

Symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) improved with exposure to healthy bacteria in the gut, according to a study in a mouse model of this common women’s endocrine disorder. The study results will be presented Monday at ENDO 2019, the Endocrine Society’s annual meeting in New Orleans, La.

This study builds on recent research by the same investigators showing that the human gut microbiome, or gut bacterial composition, is less diverse in women with PCOS.

“Our new results suggest that altering the gut microbiome via prebiotic or probiotic therapies may be a potential treatment option for PCOS,” said the study’s senior investigator, Varykina Thackray, Ph.D., with the University of California San Diego School of Medicine in La Jolla, Calif.

PCOS affects about 10 percent of women of childbearing age, and the exact causes are unknown, according to the Hormone Health Network. It has no cure, but symptoms are treated with medications and changes in diet and exercise. Signs of the disorder include cystic follicles in the ovaries, higher levels of testosterone, excess body hair, irregular or no menstrual periods, and sometimes weight gain and insulin resistance. Possible long-term health consequences include infertility, miscarriage, pregnancy complications, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and depression.

Thackray and her research team induced PCOS in female mice that were going through puberty by giving them letrozole, an aromatase inhibitor. By blocking the conversion of testosterone to estrogen, this drug results in elevated testosterone levels and in mice results in other hallmarks of PCOS as well. Another control group of mice received treatment with a placebo in this study, which received funding from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

For five weeks the researchers kept two mice per cage in three different housing arrangements: PCOS mice together, placebo-treated mice together and mice from both treatment groups together. Co-housing results in exposure to each other’s gut microbiome, Thackray explained.

PCOS mice that lived with placebo-treated mice had substantially improved testosterone levels, normalized cycles and ovulation compared to PCOS mice housed with each other, the investigators reported. In addition, PCOS mice housed with placebo mice had decreased weight, lower fasting blood sugar and insulin levels, and less insulin resistance (a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes).

Importantly, Thackray said these improvements in PCOS features were linked to changes in the gut microbiome. “Additional research is needed to understand how specific gut bacteria contribute to PCOS and whether the gut microbiome offers potential avenues for treating the condition,” Thackray said.

###

Endocrinologists are at the core of solving the most pressing health problems of our time, from diabetes and obesity to infertility, bone health, and hormone-related cancers. The Endocrine Society is the world’s oldest and largest organization of scientists devoted to hormone research and physicians who care for people with hormone-related conditions.

The Society has more than 18,000 members, including scientists, physicians, educators, nurses and students in 122 countries. To learn more about the Society and the field of endocrinology, visit our site at www.endocrine.org. Follow us on Twitter at @TheEndoSociety and @EndoMedia.


All Press Releases

Media Contacts

Colleen Williams Manager, Public Relations Phone: (202)-971-3611 [email protected]

Jenni Glenn Gingery Associate Director, Communications and Media Relations Phone: (202)-971-3655 [email protected]

All News & Advocacy

Hill Event
Patient Resources

The Hormone Health Network

Hormone Health Network
From bench to bedside and all the stages in between, the Hormone Health Network is committed to supporting patient and public education.

From bench to bedside and all the stages in between, the Hormone Health Network is committed to supporting patient and public education.

Podcast

Endocrine News Podcast

EndocrineNewsPodcast
The Endocrine News podcast brings you the latest research and clinical advances from experts in the field, whether you are in your car, office, or out for a run.

The Endocrine News podcast brings you the latest research and clinical advances from experts in the field, whether you are in your car, office, or out for a run.

Bench to Bedside

Endocrine Society Journals

Research
Our top-ranked peer-reviewed journals are among the first to publish major developments and discovery milestones.

Our top-ranked peer-reviewed journals are among the first to publish major developments and discovery milestones.

Back to top
Short on time?

We'll come to you...

Get updates on the latest breakthroughs, clinical practice guidelines, and career development opportunities, straight to your inbox

Then take the next step: Set up your free website account and get exclusive access to even more great tools & content!