According to a new study, reducing blood glucose levels can partially restore reproductive hormone levels in obese females, leading to enhanced fertility.
The study’s findings were reported in the Journal of Endocrinology
The findings suggest that a common type 2 diabetes medicine that lowers blood glucose levels can partially restore abnormal levels of reproductive hormones in a well-established mouse model of obesity. Many obese women who have fertility problems have changed amounts of reproductive hormones. There is currently no effective treatment for this.
The development of a medicine that not only improves women’s metabolic health but also addresses obesity-related infertility would be a big step forward, potentially improving the quality of life for many people.
Although fertility issues in obese women are well known, there is a lack of effective and tailored treatments to address them. Obesity is an increasing health problem, which means that more women are experiencing reproductive difficulties.
Obesity-related fertility concerns are complicated, but data suggests that they are linked in part to changes in energy metabolism, which lead to changed levels of reproductive hormones, which can subsequently disrupt the menstrual cycle and ovulation. Obese people are more likely to acquire type 2 diabetes, and they frequently have high blood glucose levels as well as other metabolic abnormalities.
The MC4R gene knock-out (KO) mouse is a well-studied obese model that also has irregular reproductive cycles and altered hormone levels, resulting in decreased fertility. Because the mouse reproductive cycle is similar to that of humans in terms of the profile of hormone level changes, but being much shorter in duration, the MC4R KO mouse provides an excellent, representative model for preliminary studies of metabolic and reproductive function in obesity.
Dapagliflozin is a medicine routinely used to treat type 2 diabetes, where it lowers blood glucose levels and improves other metabolic health markers, although its effects on reproductive health and fertility are unknown.
Professor Chen and colleagues from Australia’s University of Queensland evaluated the effects of dapagliflozin medication on metabolic health and reproductive hormone levels in the MC4R mouse model of obesity in this study. When compared to non-treated mice, blood glucose levels were normal after only 8 weeks of treatment, body weight was lowered, the reproductive cycle was normalised, and levels of reproductive hormones and ovulation were partially recovered.
“We frequently encounter reduced fertility in women with obesity in clinical practise,” says Dr. Cui, a visiting fellow from China’s Chengdu Women and Children Hospital, “thus this research provides promise for a future, effective treatment.”
Professor Chen adds, “These findings suggest that treating obesity with dapagliflozin to normalise blood glucose metabolism may be a promising way to restore at least some reproductive function. This could help ladies who don’t have access to other successful fertility treatments.”
However, Professor Chen warns, “Although hopeful, these experiments were conducted on rodents, and much more research is needed to confirm that these findings can be effectively repeated in women. Obese people, on the other hand, are at a significantly higher risk of acquiring type 2 diabetes, therefore the established health benefits of lowering blood glucose levels may be extended to enhancing fertility in those who are affected.”
The researchers plan to look into the molecular mechanisms implicated in the use of dapagliflozin to improve reproductive function, which could lead to better targets for future fertility treatments in women.