Women unable to have children due to polycystic ovary syndrome may be one step closer to regaining fertility as a study gains a $5 million boost.

The University of Otago research, led by Associate Professor Rebecca Campbell, has been running since 2009 making groundbreaking steps into finding a cure for the lead cause of infertility.

Campbell has been announced as one of five researchers from around the country to receive a portion of the Health Research Council's $25 million grant for long-term programmes.

PCOS is a hormonal disorder affecting roughly one woman in 10, with symptoms including weight gain, excess facial hair growth, and irregular periods.


Although symptoms can be treated, there is no known cure.

The latest findings from the research suggested it may be possible to "reset" women's fertility to normal levels, by blocking the action of androgen hormones in their brains.

Campbell said she was thrilled to be able to carry out this important work and get one step closer to finding a cure.

University of Otago associate professor Rebecca Campbell leads groundbreaking research into curing polycystic ovary syndrome. Photo / Supplied
University of Otago associate professor Rebecca Campbell leads groundbreaking research into curing polycystic ovary syndrome. Photo / Supplied

"This new funding will enable us to address how androgen excess is involved in reproduction and start pre-clinical trials testing potential therapies."

Her team will be pairing up with clinical professor Inger Sundstrom-Poromaa at the University of Uppsala in Sweden.

Together, they will be working to understand how androgen blockade in women with PCOS impacts long-term reproductive and metabolic health.

University of Otago deputy vice-chancellor Professor Richard Blaikie said it was wonderful to see the funding go towards research addressing an issue that affects so many New Zealand women and families.

"We are also pleased that the work involves strong international collaborations with Otago researchers so the results can be translated globally."

Fertility New Zealand vice president Juanita Copeland said they welcomed the funding of the research as it offered hope for the many New Zealand women living with PCOS.

"A cure would improve chances for many PCOS women who are trying to conceive."

2018 HRC programme grants – full list
Associate Professor Rebecca Campbell, University of Otago, Dunedin
Untangling PCOS: Understanding androgen excess and the female brain
60 months, $4,999,604

Professor Jackie Cumming, Victoria University of Wellington
Enhancing primary health care services to improve health in Aotearoa/New Zealand
60 months, $4,779,445

Professor Cliona Ni Mhurchu, The University of Auckland
Dietary Interventions: Evidence & Translation (DIET) programme
60 months, $4,879,689

Associate Professor Gregory O'Grady, The University of Auckland
Translational advances in gastrointestinal surgical recovery and motility disorders
60 months, $4,953,846

Professor Peter Shepherd, The University of Auckland
Understanding genetic risk factors for metabolic disease in Maori and Pacific
60 months, $4,997,081