PCOS special journal issue a hit with clinicians

David Abbott, PhD (portrait)
David Abbott, PhD
Terhi Piltonen, MD, PhD (portrait)
Terhi Piltonen, MD, PhD

By Jacqueline N. Rubin, WNPRC editorial intern
Oct. 28, 2020

A special issue of Current Opinion in Endocrine and Metabolic Research (COEMR) focusing on polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) has drawn praise from clinicians for its insights into the disease’s diversity, complexity and pathogenic origins.

David Abbott, PhD, at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, co-edited the issue with Terhi Piltonen, MD, PhD, at the University of Oulu, Finland. The editor-in-chief selected the two professors of obstetrics and gynecology to gather contemporary insight into topics such as care and management of PCOS, reproduction and offspring, developmental progression, transgenerational transmission, pathogenesis and more.

The PCOS issue has been warmly received by clinicians, eliciting comments such as:

“This special issue is an exceptional knowledge bank on all things PCOS, which I am going to be referring to for a while and sharing with my colleagues”

“A truly remarkable compilation of excellent science”

“I have already sent it round to all my students as essential reading”

The collection of papers aims to capture how clinical and scientific communities are innovating and coordinating on increasingly focused and collaborative initiatives to better tailor more effective PCOS management, according to Abbott. “Our goal is to greatly reduce risk for PCOS-related chronic diseases that translate into poor long-term health outcomes and decreased work ability,” he said.

Abbott works closely with physicians on understanding, diagnosing and treating polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) sooner and more effectively in young women than was possible decades ago. He has studied PCOS at the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center for more than thirty years and is frequently consulted as an expert in the field. According to COEMR, Abbott has led the development of comprehensive nonhuman primate models that were the vanguard for animal and human studies aimed at determining the developmental origins of PCOS. “With so many different symptoms in PCOS, it took a long time for physicians to identify the disease as more than infertility,” said Abbott, a professor of Ob-Gyn in the Division of Reproductive Sciences at the UW-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health.

PCOS is deceptively prevalent, according to Abbott. As described in “Thirty years of research translates into new treatment strategies for polycystic ovary syndrome”, PCOS afflicts over 14 million women in the United States. The disorder increases the risk of endometrial cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, asthma, obesity, depression and anxiety, as well as causing subfertility and a variety of reproductive disorders. Other manifestations include difficulty controlling weight gain, subfertility and hirsutism.

Abbott explains that because of misunderstanding about PCOS, “Too many women are being treated for diabetes, excess body hair, obesity and other clinical presentations, but not the underlying problem. From other investigators, we also know now that PCOS is highly heritable, and prospective gene candidates are emerging.” In order to prevent mistakes such as misdiagnoses, Abbott conducts monkey studies that demonstrate implications of altered gene expression related to genes suspected to play a role in PCOS.

This September, Abbott participated on the panel, “PCOS legislative advocacy: How you can make a difference” as part of the PCOS Awareness Symposium 2020. He also published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism with Ob-Gyn groups mostly in Trondheim, Norway on the ability of the well-known PCOS therapeutic metformin to reduce high maternal androgen levels during gestation in non-obese women with PCOS carrying a male fetus.

“Great strides have been made toward discovering more about all aspects of polycystic ovary syndrome,” Abbott said. He emphasized that collaboration between basic and clinical scientists was key to his decades of productive research on PCOS: “The bridge to tomorrow’s medicine for PCOS is built on the foundation of scientist and clinician working together to determine pathogenic mechanisms lying at the core of PCOS ‘s beginnings.”

Abbott’s collaborations began in 1991, and still continue, with Daniel Dumesic, MD, professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of California, Los Angeles, and more recently with Eszter Vanky, MD, consultant in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim.