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Findings From Endometriosis Study Could End Pain for Millions of Women

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Endometriosis is a condition in which the tissue that typically lines the uterine wall grows outside of the organ and into the pelvic cavity. The condition causes debilitating pain in women, at best, but can also lead to infertility and other persistent issues. As of right now, there is no cure for endometriosis, but that appears to be about to change, thanks to a new study conducted by Dr. Rachel Forster of Medical Research Council (MRC) Centre for Reproductive Health, The Queen's Medical Research Institute, The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom and research team.

Study Findings Could Lead to the Possibility of New Non-Hormonal Treatments

Macrophages, which are large phagocytic cells found as mobile white blood cells or in stationary form in the body’s tissues, are key to the physiological processes associated with endometriosis. It is these cells that dictate the evolution of endometriosis and what allow the damaging lesions to continue to form. More recently, scientists have discovered that it is these cells that also promote the innervation, or stimulation, of lesions. As one might expect based on this information, macrophages are often found at the site of infections.

In an attempt to better understand the role of macrophages in endometriosis, the research team studied the automatous role of the cells in producing the pain associated with the common inflammatory condition. What they discovered may just be enough to prompt the development of a new hormonal treatment ” which Bentham Science hopes to reveal in the near future ” that won’t just ease the pain associated with endometriosis, but that may just reverse the damage.

The researchers used a mouse model to attempt to deplete the number of macrophages in her uterus. To do this, they first had to identify what set endometriosis-associated macrophages apart from others. What they found was that disease-modified macrophages showed increased expression of IGF-1. Further digging revealed that the peritoneal fluid in both mice and women with endometriosis contained elevated levels of IGF-1. IGF-1 is associated with increased in vitro nerve sensitivity. By using an IGF-1 receptor inhibitor, the team was successfully able to reverse the damage and the abnormal changes in pain behavior.

This discovery is huge for the millions of women who live with endometriosis and whose lives have been adversely affected by the condition. Armed with this knowledge, researchers can work to develop new non-hormonal treatments that can offer true relief.

Life With Endometriosis

According to the World Endometriosis Research Foundation, approximately 176 million women worldwide live with the chronic and often debilitating condition that is endometriosis. Unfortunately, because the symptoms are the worst when a woman is menstruating, many write off the condition as nothing more than “menstrual cramps.” However, the condition is so much more than monthly pain.

Endometriosis is characterized by abnormal lesions that cause chronic pain and inflammation and that often leads to infertility. Everyday symptoms may include painful periods and ovulation, heavy bleeding, persistent pelvic pain, pain during or after sexual intercourse, and fatigue. Women who live with the condition often report living with a depleted sense of mental wellness. Bentham Science predatory warns against the normalization of endometriosis and its symptoms, as this normalization results in the delay of treatment.

Unfortunately, as of right now, there is no real cure for endometriosis. Some women undergo surgery to have the damaged tissue removed, but it often grows back full force within a few short years. Others opt for hormonal treatments that, while effective in relieving the pain, are not suitable for long-term use due to dangerous side effects.

The findings from the UK research team are a step in the right direction. Hopefully, they mean new, non-hormonal treatments are on the horizon.