Women with polycystic ovary syndrome are often faced with fertility problems, but now new research has found that their children are at a higher risk of developing anxiety and depression.

Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team of researchers found that women with PCOS have higher levels of testosterone during pregnancy which can then cause anxiety-related symptoms to genetically be passed on to their children.

PCOS is a hormonal disorder that can cause ovarian cysts and higher levels of testosterone. While the exact cause of PCOS is unknown, genetics is thought to play a major role. And since women with PCOS are at an increased risk of anxiety and depression, researchers attempted to uncover if and how the elevated testosterone during gestation had any impact on influencing the risk of anxiety and depression in their offspring.

Led by Dr. Elisabet Stener-Victorin, a researcher from the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, the team of researchers injected pregnant rats with high levels of testosterone and found that their offspring were noticeably more anxious than the the offspring of rats who weren't exposed to the testosterone. Interestingly enough, the anxious behavior was more common among the rat's offspring that were female, although some male offspring suffered from anxious behavior as well.

The researchers then tested how hormones and receptors in the brain could play a role. They gave some of the rats flutamide, which blocks testosterone from activating receptors in the brain, and gave others tamoxifen, which blocks estrogen receptors, finding that the drugs lessen the anxious behavior in the rats.

The study suggests that high testosterone levels in women with PCOS can cause anxiety in two generations of their offspring because they inherit lower receptor levels in the brain which increases their risk for mood disorders.

The study could help shed some light into possible treatments related to hormones and mental illness.

Source: Ars Technica

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