Researchers have uncovered a new link between chronic stress and reproductive problems, in a pre-clinical study that shines the spotlight on a hunger-triggering hormone. The study suggests high levels of the hormone ghrelin, which stimulates appetite and is also release during stress, could be harmful to some aspects of reproductive function.
RMIT researchers find that by blocking the ghrelin receptor in female; they were able to reduce the negative effect of chronic stress on a key aspect of ovarian function. Senior co-author Dr Luba Sominsky said the study, publish in the Journal of Endocrinology, show the need for further research on the long-term impact of chronic stress on fertility and the role of ghrelin in regulating these effects.
Underlying fertility issues
But the current findings have implications for those with underlying fertility issues, Sominsky said. Stress is an inseparable part of our lives, and most of us deal with it quite efficiently; so without major health problems, they said. This means young and otherwise healthy women may experience only temporary and probably reversible effects of stress on their reproductive function.
But for women already suffering from fertility problems; so even a minor impact on their ovarian function may influence the chance and timing of conception. Sominsky, a Vice-Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Research Fellow at RMIT, said that although this work is exclusively in mice; hence there are many similarities to humans in stress responses, as well as in many phases of reproductive development and function.
Our findings help clarify the intriguing role of ghrelin in these complex connections; also point us on a path towards future research that could help us find ways of mitigating the effects of stress on reproductive function. Associate Professor Sarah Spencer, senior co-author on the study, said the study indicated there could be a relationship between eating, stress and reproductive function.
Majority of primordial follicles
Female mammals are born with a fixed number of these “immature” follicles; which do not regenerate or regrow if they are damage. While the majority of primordial follicles will die and never complete their development; so a small proportion will eventually develop further to become preovulatory follicles.
This means the fewer “immature” ones you have; so the fewer “mature” follicles later in life that can release an egg cell for fertilisation. The study find that female mice expose to chronic stress had significantly fewer primordial follicles. But when the researchers blocked the effect of ghrelin on its receptor; hence they find the number of primordial follicles was normal despite the exposure to stress.
The length of the female reproductive lifespan is strongly link to the number of primordial follicles in the ovary, Sominsky said. Losing some of those primordial follicles early on is often predictive; so of earlier reproductive decline and deterioration. This research is in early stages, with many steps to go before they can translate this clinically.
But getting a better understanding of the role; hence of ghrelin in all of this brings us an important step closer to developing interventions that can keep these critical parts of the reproductive system healthy. This article has republish from materials provided by RMIT. Note: material may have edit for length and content. For further information, please contact the cited source.