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Unusual suspect: Could deficient 'brain glue' make you infertile?

Monday 2 November 2020 11:54am

Elodie Desroziers in the lab 2020The most common cause of infertility, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), affects about 10% of all women. Dr Elodie Desroziers from the Centre for Neuroendocrinology has just been awarded the prestigious Hercus Fellowship by the New Zealand Health Research Council to investigate the brain’s role in this disorder.

It is well understood that our brain’s feats are the work of billions of neurons. But the neurons are outnumbered by other cells by a factor of 10, and these cells for a long time were merely considered as supportive ‘glue’. Over the past decades it has become increasingly evident that these ‘glial’ cells in fact do a lot more than holding the neurons together – they actively regulate and participate in neuronal communication within the brain.

Work at the Centre of Neuroendocrinology and other labs around the world has shown that, maybe unexpectedly, the culprit for the seemingly ovarian disorder PCOS may reside in the brain. Given that glial cells have now been shown to play important and dynamic roles throughout the brain, Dr Desroziers’ hypothesis is that they may also be involved in the processes which can cause PCOS.

The Hercus Fellowship will support Dr Desroziers’ work with $507,000 over 4 years, during which she will address what is going wrong with glial cells when a female develops PCOS. She will be assisted by her mentors Associate Professor Rebecca Campbell and Dr Andrew Clarkson (Department of Anatomy).