PCOS, a widespread disorder affecting one in 10 women of childbearing age, has always been strongly associated with obesity, but this is the first time a genetic connection has been shown to exist. The recent research links the condition, which is characterized by irregular periods and excessive hair growth, to one variant of the so-called FTO gene, which is the same variant that predisposes a woman to obesity.
Barber and his team created two groups for their study – one of 463 PCOS patients and another of 1,336 women without the disorder who served as the experiment’s control group. The scientists analyzed the type of FTO gene each subject carried. They found a strong correlation between the variant of the FTO gene that codes for susceptibility to obesity and a subject’s susceptibility to PCOS.
The results indicate that the FTO-gene variant influences PCOS susceptibility through its effect on fat mass. This is the first gene to be linked compellingly with predisposition to PCOS and offers genetic evidence that substantiates the well-established link between obesity and PCOS.
“Our future work will focus on elucidating the underlying mechanisms of polycystic ovary syndrome and its metabolic consequences with the hope of understanding how this common condition develops,” Barber said. “This in turn will instruct future therapeutic developments for women who suffer from polycystic ovary syndrome.”