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Here’s how male hormones regulate fertility

Male hormones are needed for normal function of the ovarian follicle, including the successful release of an egg that can be fertilised, say researchers.

health and fitness Updated: Apr 04, 2017 13:03 IST
Male Hormones
Too much of the male hormone can disrupt the development of the ovarian follicle, resulting in difficulty in conceiving. (Images: Shutterstock)

Active male hormones called androgens are needed for normal functioning of the ovarian follicle, including the successful release of an egg that can be fertilised, according to a new research.

Researchers from Britain and the US have gained fresh insight into the role of male hormones in supporting and disrupting the production of eggs by ovarian follicles.

The study, published in the journal Endocrinology, measured the production of hormones by the isolated ovarian follicle during its development, using highly sensitive and specific mass spectrometry.

Scientists from the University of Birmingham and Northwestern University Chicago showed that ovarian follicles are able to produce active male hormones called androgens from very early stages of development.

They found that androgens are needed for normal function of the follicle, including the successful release of an egg that can be fertilised.

“We could also show that too much androgen disrupts the development of the follicle, mirroring what we observe in women with polycystic ovary syndrome, who have increased blood androgen concentrations and frequently have difficulties conceiving,” said lead author Professor Wiebke Arlt from the Institute of Metabolism and Systems Research at the University of Birmingham.

This was an exciting and unexpected discovery, she said, adding that they could show that the follicle is able to regulate the male hormone balance by decreasing androgen production in response to androgen administration while increasing androgen production when the follicle is treated with androgen receptor blockers.

“In women with polycystic ovary syndrome, this self-regulation of the male hormone balance by the follicle is overcome by the very high androgen concentrations in circulation. Thus, we can expect that a decrease in androgens will have a beneficial effect on fertility in affected women,” Arlt said.

The researchers used a system pioneered by Professor Teresa Woodruff, from the Women’s Health Research Institute at Northwestern University Chicago.

This allowed them to embed a follicle isolated from a mouse ovary in a gel and then to observe its development in a dish, until the release of a mature egg at the end of the process.

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