Sheep study to address PCOS

A Texas A&M AgriLife study with sheep may soon help address fertility problems in women, if it can discover ways to break the chain of generational transfer of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), one of the most common infertility disorders.

Rodolfo Cardoso, DVM, Ph.D., Department of Animal Science assistant professor and reproductive physiologist in Texas A&M’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, will lead a $2.4 million National Institutes of Health-funded project.

PCOS affects about 5 million women in the U.S. and over 100 million women worldwide. It is a complex syndrome that includes an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, dyslipidemia, hypertension, diabetes mellitus and endometrial cancer.

Approximately 70% of women with PCOS are obese or overweight with metabolic complications, Cardoso said. It is well documented that if women are able to lose weight and improve metabolic function, they can improve their fertility. Also, it is known that whatever happens to a baby during fetal development can affect the health of that individual throughout life and can also carry over to the next generation upon reproduction.

“What we are trying to answer with this project is how to break this multigenerational cycle using dietary interventions,” Cardoso said. “The goal is to prevent the animals from becoming obese and thus prevent the vertical transmission of the PCOS traits.”

It would take 20 or more years to answer the question in humans. “With sheep, we can answer the question much quicker. Within three years we will have the daughter that reaches puberty and soon have a granddaughter present that we can investigate the effects of the dietary interventions.”

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