What is endometriosis?

Submitted by Shelby D Burns Sat 02/08/2014

More than 176 million women and girls worldwide suffer from endometriosis according to the Endometriosis Foundation of America. Researchers from MIT have discovered cellular activity that may provide a better understanding of the mechanisms behind the condition. It’s possible better drugs and strategies to treat the condition can be developed. In fact, they have suggested a “patient stratification system” similar to what is already used for patients with breast cancer where treatments re individually developed to the molecular profile of a patient’s tumor. Endometriosis Endometriosis is a condition in which endometrial tissue lining the uterus is found outside the uterus. It may be trapped in the pelvic area or lower abdomen. Symptoms include painful or heavy periods, pain in the lower abdomen, and fertility problems. The cause is unknown. “We know there is a genetic component, we know there is an environmental component, and we know there is an inflammatory component. But it’s very difficult to say for individual patients what particular sequence of events led to particular symptoms,” explained Michael Beste of the Department of Biological Engineering at MIT. Very individual symptoms It is difficult to diagnose because of the variety of symptoms. “The delay to a conclusive diagnosis can range anywhere from 3 to 15 years. There’s a real need in the field to improve our understanding of both the basic biology and the clinical manifestations of the disease to better treat quality of life of affected women,” noted Beste. Hormones can help, but usually menopause is triggered as a result. Surgery to remove trapped tissue is an option, but the results may not be permanent. Breakthrough discovery In peritoneal fluid samples, researchers found a pattern of activity involving 13 cykotines that are linked to ovarian and rectovaginal lesions. They discovered that the pattern negatively correlates to fertility. “This paper isn’t to say we discovered the answer. We’re trying to start a conversation with a broad translational science community about this because it is such a terrible disease. We found something really interesting, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg, and if other clinicians are interested in setting up a similar study with their patients, we’re happy to talk about collaborating with them,” said Linda Griffith, of the Center for Gynepathology at MIT.

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