New Endometriosis Treatment Could Preserve Fertility

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Two new drugs are the first to treat endometriosis without harming fertility, which researchers hope will help the 10 percent of women who suffer from the condition.

Endometriosis is a common condition in which cells that normally grow only in the uterus travel into the abdominal cavity. There, they form lesions and cysts, which scar the ovaries, fallopian tubes, bladder and rectum. The lesions can lead to inflammation and nerve growth, causing abdominal pain.

One in two women with the disease are typically infertile.

Though surgically removing lesions and cysts can temporarily relieve pain, a long-term solution is to reduce levels of estrogen in the body. Unfortunately, reducing the hormone has negative side effects on the body like menopausal symptoms and infertility. Women who desire children can either treat their condition and become less fertile, or stop treatment and deal with lesions.

Researchers at the University of Illinois may have a solution to this catch 22 situation. They found that estrogen receptors in lesions are different than those in normal reproductive tissue, so the team developed two drugs to help the receptors in the wayward endometrial tissue. Both of the drugs (chloroindazole and oxabicycloheptene sulfonate) were found to reduce the growth of lesions in mice. They also prevented new nerves in the lesions and decreased pain. Additionally, the drugs had no effect on the health of the mice’s babies or their fertility.

"We are hopeful that these compounds will prove to be useful for women with this common disease," Benita Katzenellenbogen, one researcher, said.

Katzenellenbogen added that it may be several years before the drugs can be tested on humans.

"It's fascinating to see the drugs had very little effect on the [normal] endometrial tissue and the pups, but we have to wait to see whether this will hold up in humans,” Christian Becker, a University of Oxford researcher, said. "It's good that this is getting some attention as it affects so many people, but it's not historically been a cool thing to talk about.”

Becker added that the drugs would be beneficial in avoiding surgery.

Source: New Scientist / Photo Credit: Flickr


 
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