Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Periodic Problems

Jordan Earl

As bad as it sounds, many girls breathe a sigh of relief when their period arises every month. But for some who experience amenorrhea their period doesn’t show. Amenorrhea is a condition where women have never had their period or have had it and has stopped (not because of pregnancy). This can be due to a number of different reasons all revolving around the hypothalamus, pituitary or physical ovarian issues (Nelson, L 2012).  Due to these physiological problems many women suffering from this find it very hard to get pregnant (Ghadami, M et al. 2012). This is primarily because of a hormone called the follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and its lack of presence or acceptance into the normal menstrual cycle (Ghadami, M et al. 2012).

A normal menstrual cycle consists of a feedback loop from the hypothalamus to the ovaries. When it comes around to that time of the month, the hypothalamus secretes hormones to the anterior pituitary, which relays the signal and releases FSH to encourage follicle stimulation (Farabee, M 2009).  In amenorrhea, the female body either doesn’t produce enough or there is an abnormality with the FSH receptors in the ovary making it difficult to use the FSH effectively (Ghadami, M et al. 2012). This inhibits the eggs from being released and the uterine wall therefore doesn’t need to build a menstrual lining.

Recently, there have been scientific breakthroughs with stem cell therapy. Ghadami M et al. took DNA from normal and FSHR deficient mice and through gene expression could see the coding for the primer of the normal and abnormal allele.  This enabled the team to distinguish between the normal and abnormal mice. The bone marrow from the normal mice were extracted and injected into the ovaries of the mice with the mutated allele to encourage folliculogensis. At ages 1, 3, 6, 9 and 12 weeks the mice were euthanized and examined.

At this time all the major organs of the mice were sliced and treated for measurements of size and any other abnormalities. Records show no indication that there was any other effect of the injection in any of the organs apart from the ovaries. Their FSH, LH (luteinizing hormone, another menstrual hormone), estrogen and progesterone levels were also recorded from blood samples. Records show that in comparison to the normal mice, the injected mice had higher estrogen levels and lower FSH. It appears that although the FSH levels were lower the FSHR gene expression was much higher than in normal mice. This meant that although ovulation was not reached (and therefore, infertility was still an issue), the follicles found in the ovaries were stimulated to become more mature (Ghadami, M et al. 2012).

Although the overall goal of the study was to prevent infertility and potentially get rid of amenorrhea, Ghadami and his researchers have made a major breakthrough in understanding more about how stem cells can repair malfunctioning hormones. This has also helped the process of in vitro-fertilization in that mothers-to-be can produce their own eggs to a greater level of maturation to help improve the chances of becoming pregnant. Further studies are being conducted.

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