AgResearch collaborates to find causes of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
Left: normal human ovary. Right: polycystic ovary.
Collaboration between AgResearch and The University of Otago on a common cause of infertility in women could benefit farmers as well as those suffering from Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.
The syndrome is a common disorder affecting up to 10 per cent of women worldwide and the major cause of female-based sub and infertility. It accounts for approximately 75 per cent of suppressed ovulation (anovulatory) infertility and yet the medical and scientific understanding of the causes of the disorder is limited. A newly developed sheep model now being established at the Centre for Reproduction and Genomics (CRG) may hold the key to understanding this disorder.
Peter Smith of AgResearch’s Dunedin campus, Invermay, is working with University of Otago’s Dr Peter Hurst under the umbrella of the Centre for Reproduction and Genomics headed by Professor Neil Gemmell. Peter says the AgResearch contribution to the project would be to use sheep to help understand the condition better. “The project also has implications for on-farm reproductive efficiency particularly in the timing of puberty. Any discoveries we make can be applied to sheep directly and improve reproduction on farms.”
Dr Hurst, who has experience in human reproduction and human ovarian development and function, says “sheep are an ideal model and in countries including the USA and United Kingdom they are being studied as their ovaries are developmentally and functionally similar to humans, much closer than say those of rodents.”
Professor Neil Gemmell says the project can be targeted at making a real difference for sufferers. “The Team intends to link abnormalities seen at the level of the ovary and identify a causative change that leads to the condition, resulting in more effective treatment options. Patients with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome can have a wide range of metabolic and reproductive dysfunctions making successful treatment difficult and so this work involves putting together a strong multidisciplinary Team to confront the issues.”
“The Centre for Reproduction and Genomics is a collaborative venture between
AgResearch and The University of Otago and we’ve been able to connect to the medical school and arrange the involvement of one of New Zealand’s pre-eminent clinicians in this field. AgResearch has a world-leading understanding of sheep reproduction and sheep ovarian function and development and for six years they have been working closely with the University of Michigan, one of the world-leaders in the Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome field, who needed expertise in sheep ovarian morphology and foetal development of the sheep ovary,” said