In women, fertility preservation and health related to ovarian function are among the emerging health problems. More often, pathologies with progressive or immediate ovarian exhaustion afflict women between 18 and 40 years, and, in the case of oncological diseases, women with a greater probability of survival of 50%.
The development of new molecules, together with the testing of new cell and drug therapies, can help ease the pathologies linked to the loss of ovarian function. In the contest of these issues, the research team led by Dr. Francesca Gioia Klinger and coordinated by Prof. Massimo De Felici has discovered a new function of the luteinizing hormone LH in women. Until now it was thought that the functions of LH, secreted from the pituitary gland, were in women of childbearing age, ovulation, induction and maintenance of the corpus luteum, which is necessary for the early stages of embryo development. New researches has shown that LH is able to defend the primordial follicles (containing the eggs destined to be ovulated and fertilized after a long process of maturation), from the deleterious effects of a known chemotherapeutic, cisplatin, used in treatment of different types of tumors, including those that most frequently affect women, such as breast cancer. In fact, the researchers have found that treatment with cisplatin destroys the primordial follicles and render sterile prepubertal mice; in contrast, when chemotherapy is administered with LH, most primordial follicles don’ t degenerate and adult female mice are fertile. The group has also shown that the cause of the degeneration of the follicles is probably due to the damage that cisplatin causes to the oocytes’ DNA; LH stimulate the DNA repair mechanisms and at the same time block the apoptotic pathways activated by cisplatin in oocytes. Through which mechanisms LH plays this important new function, and if it occurs in human ovaries, is what the researchers are currently investigating. These findings could lead to the development of a physiological strategy to protect the ovarian function of young cancer patients.
This research is funded by Merck and the European Society for Human Reproduction (ESHRE).
The work was published in the journal Cell Death and Differentiation1, at the beginning of this year. The group works in the Section of Histology and Embryology of our Department and that has been studying the molecular mechanisms that control the formation and maturation of female germ cells since many years.
1. Rossi V, Lispi M, Longobardi S, Mattei M, Rella FD, Salustri A, De Felici M, Klinger FG. LH prevents cisplatin-induced apoptosis in oocytes and preserves female fertility in mouse. Cell Death Differ. 2017 Jan;24(1):72-82. doi: 10.1038/cdd.2016.97.