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The missing link between stress and fertility

The missing link between stress and fertility

Researchers from the University of Otago have found the ‘missing link between stress and infertility’.

The missing link between stress and fertility

Published in The Journal of Neuroscience, and led by Professor Greg Anderson of the Centre for Neuroendocrinology, the research has confirmed in laboratory testing that a population of nerve cells near the base of the brain – the RFRP neurons – become active in stressful situations and then suppress the reproductive system.

“A revolutionary step forward that has become available to neuroscientists in recent years is the ability to control the activity of selected groups of neurons – to either silence or ramp up their activity, and then monitor the outcomes,” says Professor Anderson.

“We used cutting edge transgenic techniques to show that when the activity of the RFRP cells is increased, reproductive hormones are suppressed – in a similar manner to what happens during stress, or during exposure to the stress hormone cortisol.

“Amazingly, when we used cortisol to suppress the reproductive hormones but also silenced the RFRP neurons, the reproductive system continued to function as if cortisol wasn’t there at all – proving that the RFRP neurons are a critical piece of the puzzle in stress-induced suppression of reproduction.

“We have now shown that the RFRP neurons are indeed the missing link between stress and infertility. They become active in stressful situations – perhaps by sensing the increasing levels of cortisol – and they then suppress the reproductive system.”

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