San Francisco: Researchers unveiled a potential new treatment that may improve multiple polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) symptoms by regulating body systems and reducing inflammation.
PCOS is a pervasive endocrine disorder that affects millions of women globally, impacting their hormonal balance, fertility and overall well-being. It is difficult to treat, with widely varying symptoms and mysterious, complex underlying causes.
The result of the new study, published in International Journal of Molecular Sciences, promises a novel therapeutic approach that uses mesenchymal stem cell-derived extracellular vesicles (EVs), also known as exosomes: tiny, free-floating packages of molecules released by stem cells.
“Current PCOS treatments merely address the symptoms, and the most common treatments -- oral contraceptives -- do not address patients’ struggles with infertility,” said Hang-Soo Park, PhD, staff scientist at University of Chicago in the US.
“Our approach represents a paradigm shift from symptom management to treating the underlying causes. We hope this will prove more effective in the long term and allow patients to have children if they wish to do so,” said Park.
The researchers had previously showed that mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) -- adult cells that can differentiate into multiple cell types for healing and regeneration -- can secrete factors that can help reverse the symptoms of PCOS, but it was unclear what those factors were. The latest study identifies the EVs they release as the therapeutic components.
They found that MSC-derived EVs lowered the activity of genes that contribute to the overproduction of androgen hormones - a hallmark of PCOS.
EV-based therapy showcases distinct advantages over conventional methods. Unlike whole stem cell therapy, EVs are more accessible and less expensive to use, making them well-suited for wide-scale applications. They also offer a better safety profile, with minimal concerns about tumorigenesis or immunogenicity.
Notably, clinical trials using EV therapy for reproductive disorders have already garnered approval, demonstrating the high potential for translating this research into real-world benefits.
Moreover, IL-10, an immune signalling protein, known for its anti-inflammatory properties, may play a key role in healing. Along with this, EVs may serve as delivery vehicles that stabilise IL-10 and ferry it to target cells, increasing the molecule's effectiveness in reducing inflammation and driving restorative processes, as observed by the researchers.
“Our study demonstrates the resilience of the ovaries under EV treatment, offering renewed hope for women battling PCOS-related fertility issues,” Park said.