Müllerian inhibiting substance (MIS), a hormone linked to fetal development, might serve as a contraceptive that can protect ovaries from chemotherapy agents, according to experiments with mice that were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.1

MIS is believed to inhibit early ovarian follicular development, but in mice, MIS entirely halted early development of the follicles in which oocytes mature. Because systemic chemotherapy agents disrupt rapidly growing cells, this blockade of follicular development protected them from chemotherapy damage, the authors reported.2

The complete blockade of follicular development was “unexpected and opened up a number of new applications for the hormone,” said corresponding author David Pepin, PhD, from the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, in a hospital news release. 

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The scientists conducted experiments with female mice to show that MIS injections or gene therapy that increased MIS expression was associated with a gradual decline in growing follicles, culminating after several weeks in a virtual halt. Early-stage or “primordial” follicles were not killed, however, and lowering MIS levels again prompted their renewed development.

The researchers are now examining mouse oocyte quality after MIS treatment after chemotherapy.


1. Kano M, Sosulski AE, Zhang L, et al. AMH/MIS as a contraceptive that protects the ovarian reserve during chemotherapy [published online January 30, 2017]. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1620729114

2. Massachusetts General Hospital. Hormone may offer new contraceptive that protects ovaries from chemotherapy. Published January 30, 2017 Jan 30. Accessed February 9, 2017.