Infertility is a major issue in today’s world especially due to the high level of stress. UC Berkeley scientists have discovered that chronic stress activates a hormone that reduces fertility long after the stress has ended, and that blocking this hormone returns female reproductive behavior to normal.
While the experiments were conducted in rats, the researchers are optimistic that blocking the gene for the hormone – called gonadotropin inhibitory hormone (GnIH) – could help women overcome the negative reproductive consequences of stress.
To test the effects of chronic stress on female rats, the researchers confined female rats for three hours a day for 18 days, then let the rats relax for four days – the rat’s typical estrus period, akin to women’s 28-day menstrual period. By the end of that stress-free hiatus, cortisol levels had returned to normal, though levels of the inhibitory hormone, called RFRP3 in rats, were still elevated.
Then they used a virus to insert into the brain an RNA blocker of the RFRP3 gene, which knocked down levels of the peptide hormone by about 75% during the period of chronic stress. The gene was also turned back on after the stress ended in case it also plays a role during pregnancy. RFRP3 inhibition prevented stress-induced infertility.
This article is based on materials provided by UC Berkeley.
The original article can be accessed here.