New approaches to endometriosis treatment -- mouse experiments point the way

July 3, 2007

Possible new directions for the treatment of endometriosis, a painful condition associated with infertility that affects up to 15% of women of reproductive age, will be outlined in the presentation of two experimental studies at the 23rd annual conference of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology.

Both concern targeting angiogenesis – the formation of new blood vessels – which is encourages endometriosis by providing a rich blood supply.

Dr. Edurne Novella-Maestre and colleagues from the Valencia Infertility Institute (IVI), Spain, studied Vascular Endometrial Growth Factor (VEGF), which is known to be particularly involved in the angiogenesis process and therefore in the development of endometriosis. They created an experimental model of endometriosis in nude mice in order to test whether dopamine agonists, much used in other infertility treatment such as the prevention of ovarian hyper-stimulation syndrome, could be a new strategy for inhibiting endometrial lesions. “We know that dopamine agonists are a safe treatment, and that they have been used for many years in order to stop breastfeeding, for example, without any major side effects”, says Dr. Novella-Maestre, “so we decided to see what effect they would have on the experimental mice.”

The scientists found that the blood vessel formation in the lesions was significantly decreased. “The percentage of new blood vessels in the two treatment groups was reduced in comparison to the control group, and we also found that the percentage of old blood vessels in these groups were higher”, says Dr. Novella-Maestre. “The total number of the blood vessels was not dissimilar in the treatment and control groups, but the ratio of new/old blood vessels, the numbers of cells growing in the endometrial area, and the area lesions were totally different, suggesting that there was inhibition of blood vessel replacement in the treatment group.”

The team now intends to follow up the work in humans. “Our initial experiments have confirmed the presence of the dopamine receptor in human endometriosis, and therefore we believe that treatment with dopamine agonists will have the same effect on humans as it does on mice”, she says. “This is encouraging, since current therapies are still associated with a high recurrence rate, and many of them can only be used for a limited time due to unacceptable side effects and/or osteoporosis. For women with pain, surgery can provide a temporary relief, although symptoms recur in up to 75% of women within two years. A long-term, safe, and non-invasive solution is badly needed.”

An additional advantage of such a treatment, say the scientists, is that it is likely that women with endometriosis also have an increased risk of various cancers. The simultaneous occurrence of endometriosis with ovarian cancer, for example, suggests that endometriosis constituents may transfer into tumour cells. “If we are able to inhibit angiogenesis in the ectopic human endometrium with a dopamine agonist”, says Dr. Novella-Maestre, “we may be able to decrease the cancer risk for these patients.”

In another presentation to the conference, Dr. Ofer Fainaru, from Harvard Medical School and Children’s Hospital Boston, in Boston, Mass., USA, will announce that his team has found that dendritic cells – highly specialised immune cells – support angiogenesis by enhancing blood vessel growth. Using a mouse model of endometriosis, they found that these cells incorporate into the endometriosis lesions and enhance their growth. “We also found that these cells have a similar effect on intra-abdominal tumours”, he said.

“We therefore believe that targeting dendritic cells may prove to be a promising strategy for treating conditions dependent on angiogenesis, such as endometriosis and cancer,” says Dr. Fainaru. “Our next step will be to look for specific dendritic cell inhibitors that could have the potential to decrease angiogenesis in these conditions.”

The team hopes that in the future it may be able to develop cell-specific therapy for angiogenesis-dependent diseases that will be more effective and less toxic than current treatments.

Source: European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology

Explore further: Biomarkers indicating diminished reserve of eggs not associated with reduced fertility

Related Stories

Biomarkers indicating diminished reserve of eggs not associated with reduced fertility

October 10, 2017
Tests that estimate ovarian reserve, or the number of a woman's remaining eggs, before menopause, do not appear to predict short-term chances of conception, according to a National Institutes of Health-funded study of women ...

New drug compounds show promise against endometriosis

January 21, 2015
Two new drug compounds - one of which has already proven useful in a mouse model of multiple sclerosis - appear to be effective in treating endometriosis, a disorder that, like MS, is driven by estrogen and inflammation, ...

Why some tumors withstand treatment

March 16, 2016
New cancer drugs allow doctors to tailor treatment based on the genetic profile of a patient's tumor. However, these drugs don't work at all in some patients, and they lose their effectiveness in others.

Are painful periods normal?

February 6, 2017
The experience of having periods varies between women. They can be light and completely painless for some, but completely debilitating for others.

New relief for gynecological disorders

April 3, 2013
The creation of new blood vessels in the body, called "angiogenesis," is usually discussed in connection with healing wounds and tumors. But it's also an ongoing process in the female reproductive tract, where the growth ...

What science doesn't know about menopause

December 15, 2015
My physio, a young woman called Lucy, was simply making conversation. She wanted to distract me from the serious discomfort she was about to inflict by massaging the nerves around my painful posterior tibial tendon, an ankle ...

Recommended for you

Novel therapies for multidrug-resistant bacteria

October 23, 2017
During this innovative study published in PLOS One, researchers found that novel classes of compounds, such as metal-complexes, can be used as alternatives to or to supplement traditional antibiotics, which have become ineffective ...

Key discoveries offer significant hope of reversing antibiotic resistance

October 23, 2017
Resistance to antibiotics is becoming increasingly prevalent and threatens to undermine healthcare systems across the globe. Antibiotics including penicillins, cephalosporins and carbapenems are known as β-lactams and are ...

Pneumonia vaccine under development provides 'most comprehensive coverage' to date, alleviates antimicrobial concerns

October 20, 2017
In 2004, pneumonia killed more than 2 million children worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. By 2015, the number was less than 1 million.

Newly discovered viral marker could help predict flu severity in infected patients

October 20, 2017
Flu viruses contain defective genetic material that may activate the immune system in infected patients, and new research published in PLOS Pathogens suggests that lower levels of these molecules could increase flu severity.

Migraines may be the brain's way of dealing with oxidative stress

October 19, 2017
A new perspective article highlights a compelling theory about migraine attacks: that they are an integrated mechanism by which the brain protects and repairs itself. Recent insightful findings and potential ways to use them ...

H7N9 influenza is both lethal and transmissible in animal model for flu

October 19, 2017
In 2013, an influenza virus that had never before been detected began circulating among poultry in China. It caused several waves of human infection and in late 2016, the number of people to become sick from the H7N9 virus ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.