The drug, metformin, increases the body's sensitivity to insulin and is used to treat non-insulin- dependent diabetes. Metformin also has proven successful in treating some of the symptoms of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), the most common form of female infertility in which women fail to ovulate.
"This is a very promising lead," said Duane Alexander, M.D., Director of the NICHD. "The next step is to confirm these results in a larger, randomized trial."
PCOS affects from 5 to 10 percent of American women of reproductive age (as many as 5 million in all), explained the study's senior author, John E. Nestler, M.D., chairman of endocrinology at the Medical College of Virginia at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. Dr. Nestler's group is part of NICHD's Specialized Cooperative Centers Program in Reproduction Research.
The ovaries of women with PCOS appear to be filled with numerous small cysts, Dr. Nestler added. The cyst-like appearance results from an accumulation of immature ovarian follicles, the bubble-like structures which, upon maturation, rupture and release of the egg. The features of PCOS may include failure to ovulate or menstruate, abnormally high levels of insulin, obesity, high blood pressure, hardening of the arteries, and high triglyceride levels. PCOS patients also have high levels of the male hormone testosterone, which may cause them to grow excess facial or body hair. Also, PCOS patients have a higher than normal risk of developing non-insulin-dependent, type 2 diabetes.
In the article, the study authors noted that women with PCOS often have a history of recurrent miscarria
Contact: Bob Bock
NIH/National Institute of Child Health and Human Development