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Approved research

A Study Investigating Leukocyte Counts in Women with Self-reported Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome: Results from the UK BioBank Prospective Study.

Principal Investigator: Dr Blake Cochran
Approved Research ID: 46654
Approval date: June 20th 2019

Lay summary

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a common hormonal condition affecting approximately 5-20% of women worldwide. The condition results in the ovaries producing excessive male hormones. This hormonal imbalance can result in irregular or absent menstrual periods, difficulty becoming pregnant and mood disturbances. The condition also increases the chance of developing cardiovascular disease and diabetes even after menopause. The exact cause of PCOS and how it increases the chance of developing cardiovascular disease and diabetes is not known. Research shows that there may be a genetic link and that PCOS can run in families. There also appears to be a connection with obesity, although the details of how this occurs is not clear. Recent research has identified long-term inflammation as a possible link between PCOS and insulin resistance. Insulin is a hormone that allows cells in the body to take up glucose, so women with PCOS often develop a state in which their cells cannot use insulin. As a result, the pancreas can produce more insulin to make up for this and over time can lead to diabetes. Women with PCOS also develop abnormalities and inflammation in their fat tissue, which is thought to contribute to diabetes and cardiovascular risk. Inflammation often results in involvement of the body's immune system, which include white blood cells. There is not enough current information about how the inflammation that occurs in PCOS affects white blood cell numbers. This study therefore aims to answer this question by using the UK BioBank data which includes 273,469 women, of whom 643 have self-reported as having PCOS. The project duration is expected to be three to six months, but may be longer as more data becomes available. Answering this research question has the potential to better understand PCOS and how it increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. With this greater understanding, novel treatment options can be developed to reduce the morbidity associated with PCOS.