Telomerase, an enzyme that is involved in cell division, has been implicated as a possible cause of endometriosis. Cells lining the womb usually express telomerase in the early stages of the menstrual cycle, when cell division is important, but not the latter stages, when implantation of a fertilised embryo is a priority. However, researchers at the University of Liverpool have discovered that women who have endometriosis express telomerase both early and late in the menstrual cycle, meaning that cells lining the womb continue to divide. As a result, the researchers say that the lining of the womb may be more hostile to an early pregnancy. Furthermore, cells shed at this late stage may be more 'aggressive' and able to survive and implant outside the uterus, causing pain.
Hapangama DK, Turner MA, Drury JA et al. Hum Reprod 2008; 23: 1511-19
Smoking may be more common among women with premenstrual syndrome (PMS), but it is not known whether it is involved in PMS aetiology. A nested case-control study involving participants in the Nurses' Health Study II was carried out from 1991-2001; it included women aged 27-44 years and free from PMS at baseline, 1,057 of whom developed PMS over 10 years and a further 1,968 reporting no diagnosis of PMS and only minimal menstrual symptoms during this time. Current smokers were 2.1 times more likely than never-smokers to develop PMS over the next two to four years, and total pack-years and smoking in adolescence and young adulthood were independently associated with a higher risk of PMS.
Bertone-Johnson ER, Hankinson SE, Johnson SR, Manson JE. Am J Epidemiol 2008; 168: 938-45
Early warning signs of gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) may be evident months before the clinical diagnosis is made. Researchers in the US have found that women who go on to develop GDM have lower levels of adiponectin than those who do not (4.3 ± 0.4 v 6.98 ± 0.6 microgram/ml), as early as nine weeks into pregnancy. Adiponectin, an insulin-sensitive hormone, protects against metabolic syndrome and related conditions that can lead to type-2 diabetes. The study involved 59 pregnant women, 30 of whom went on to develop GDM; adiponectin levels were measured at an average nine weeks' gestation and grouped into quartiles, with the highest quartile used as a reference. Women with adiponectin in the lowest quartile (<2.85 microgram/ml) were 10 times more likely to develop GDM.
Lain KY, Daftary AR, Ness RB, Roberts JM. Clin Endocrinol (Oxf) 2008; 69: 407-11
Lower blood folate levels have been associated with depression in cross-sectional surveys, but evidence is lacking on whether the relationship is causal. A total of 5,051 women aged 20-34 years completed a general health questionnaire and had red cell folate levels measured at baseline. Two years later, 2,732 women were included in the final analysis and GP records showed that incident depressive symptoms were recorded for 11.2 per cent of these remaining participants. However, no relationship was found between red cell folate levels and incident depressive symptoms. The researchers suggest that lower blood folate may be a consequence, rather than a cause, of depressive symptoms.
Kendrick T, Dunn N, Robinson S et al. J Epidemiol Community Health 2008; 62: 966-72
It is known that genes in the MHC influence individual odours and that females often prefer the odour of MHC-dissimilar males. However, it has been noted that women using oral contraceptives have the opposite preference. Now UK researchers have investigated this, asking 100 women to indicate their preferences on six male body odour samples before and after initiating oral contraceptive use. The results showed that the preferences of women who began using oral contraceptives shifted towards men with genetically similar odours. MHC-similarity in couples could lead to fertility problems, the researchers say.
Roberts SC, Gosling LM, Carter V, Petrie M. Proc Biol Sci 2008; 275: 2715-22
Email suggestions to The Editor, MIMS Women's Health, at email@example.com