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‘It’s really only the beginning’: are we on the cusp of a breakthrough in endometriosis?

After generations of inaction and very few novel ideas, researchers and activists are hopeful a new path is being charted in understanding and treating the crippling chronic condition

“There’s an excitement at the moment,” says Andrew Horne. After decades of inaction, something is happening in endometriosis.

Now, says the professor of gynaecology and reproductive sciences at the University of Edinburgh, “I do think things are changing. There are more people working on it, so it’s bringing in people from different disciplines with new ideas.”

In the space of a few months, from gatherings in Edinburgh and Washington DC, labs in Sydney and Japan, there is a sense that new ideas are bubbling to the surface, including a fundamental rethinking of endometriosis not as a disease of the pelvis, but rather, says Horne, “a whole-body disease”.

It’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment when despair turned to hope in the research and patient community. There was no single breakthrough. No one person responsible.

In March, the largest ever study on the genetics of endometriosis was published in Nature Genetics, which found genetic links to 11 other pain conditions as well as other inflammatory conditions. The study, involving DNA from more than 760,000 women, found ovarian endometriosis is genetically distinct from other types and indicated there may be a genetic predisposition to excessive inflammation in people with the condition. One of the researchers, Dr Nilufer Rahmioglu from the University of Oxford, described the data as a “treasure trove of new information”.

Weeks later on the other side of the world, researchers from Sydney’s Royal Hospital for Women attracted international attention after they grew tissue from different types of endometriosis and compared how each responded differently to treatments. Jason Abbott, professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at the hospital, likened the development to those made in the treatment of breast cancer three decades ago.

Two weeks on from the Australian discovery, Japanese researchers found a common form of bacteria may be contributing to the growth of endometriosis via inflammation.

The frisson was, by then, hard to miss.

Read the full article here: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2023/aug/10/its-really-only-the-beginning-are-we-on-the-cusp-of-a-breakthrough-in-endometriosis 


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