A pain-inducing condition which affects only women has not seen much scientific relief over the last few decades. Known as “endometriosis”, it causes the tissue inside the uterus (called endometrium) to grow outside it.
Considered extremely debilitating, endometriosis causes chronic pain and infertility. It is still unclear what causes it and how it can be cured. Current course of treatment includes painkillers, contraceptives, and surgery. Even then, none of these guarantee relief.
Progress in understanding the disease
A new study from the University of Oxford along with the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Bayer AG shows some progress has been made in terms of understanding endometriosis, which affects 10 per cent women around the world.
The study, published in the Science Translational Medicine analysed genetic analysis of humans and rhesus macaques, as reported by Interesting Engineering. It started with an Oxford study from 2015, where researchers looked at 32 families with three or more patients of endometriosis. They discovered a genetic link between endometriosis (stage III/IV) and the 7p13-15 chromosome.
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What does this mean? Over 50 per cent risk of developing endometriosis among women stems from genetics. The research was worked on later at Baylor, where scientists found a variant of NPSR1 gene, also found in the same chromosome as shown in Oxford research and shown to cause serious endometriosis.
What did the scientists do next?
They sequenced the DNA of 849 macaques and found that 135 acquired endometriosis quickly. Then they moved on to perform a similar experiment on humans.
At Oxford, DNA of over 11,000 women was sequenced, including the DNA of 3,000 women with endometriosis. They were trying to understand whether it would show the same results as it did in macaques… And it did!
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According to the study, stage III/IV endometriosis has links to the same gene variation which was reported in macaques. However, not everyone with the condition showed the NPSR1 variant. Even then, this is a groundbreaking moment for millions of women in pain.
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