The NICHD conducts and supports a wide range of research activities to learn more about the causes of PCOS, its risk factors, and its possible treatments. Through its many research projects, the NICHD seeks to better understand the following:
- Genetics of PCOS. A number of gene variants have been linked to PCOS and its associated conditions. Ongoing NICHD research projects aim to identify genetic variations that underlie the development of PCOS as well as individual responses to PCOS treatments. These projects include genome-wide association studies as well as studies focused on specific gene variations.
- Pathophysiological mechanisms of PCOS. PCOS is characterized by hyperandrogenism (high levels of androgens) and, in the majority of cases, insulin resistance. The NICHD is working to understand the cellular and molecular mechanisms of ovarian dysfunction in the context of these hormonal abnormalities. Specifically, the NICHD aims to characterize the roles of insulin, androgens, and other hormones in reproductive and metabolic dysfunction. The NICHD studies are using both animal models and human participants.
- Precursors or predictors of PCOS in adolescents. PCOS may be detectable in girls as early as, or even before, their first menstrual periods. Studies are examining early signs of PCOS in adolescents to better understand the relationships among obesity, high androgen levels, and PCOS. This knowledge could help scientists develop early interventions to manage or slow the development of PCOS.
- New treatment strategies for PCOS. The NICHD is evaluating the efficacy of both existing and new treatments for PCOS. These studies include pharmacological (drug) and non-pharmacological treatments. In vitro studies are examining the cellular and molecular mechanisms of pharmacological treatments.