Gene mutation discovery sparks hope for effective endometriosis screening

February 6, 2012
This is an example of the more aggressive endometriosis seen in women with the KRAS gene variant. Credit: Dr. Hugh S. Taylor, Yale School of Medicine

Researchers at Yale School of Medicine have, for the first time, described the genetic basis of endometriosis, a condition affecting millions of women that is marked by chronic pelvic pain and infertility. The researchers' discovery of a new gene mutation provides hope for new screening methods.

Published in the Feb. 3 early online issue of EMBO , the study explored an inherited mutation located in part of the KRAS gene, which leads to abnormal endometrial growth and endometrial risk. In endometriosis, uterine tissue grows in other parts of the body, such as the , ovaries, vagina, and cervix. The condition is often hereditary and is found in 5%-15% of women of reproductive age, affecting over 70 million women worldwide.

Although the disorder has been studied for many years, its exact cause and how it develops remained unclear. It was previously shown that activating the KRAS gene caused mice to develop endometriosis. However, no mutations in this gene have been identified in women with endometriosis.

Led by senior author Hugh S. Taylor, M.D., professor and chief of the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences, the authors studied 132 women with endometriosis and evaluated them for a newly identified mutation in the region of the KRAS gene responsible for regulation. This mutation was previously linked to an increased risk of lung and ovarian cancer by study co-author Joanne Weidhaas, M.D., assistant professor of therapeutic radiology.

"We found that 31% of the women with endometriosis in the study carried this mutation, compared to only 5.8% of the general population," said Taylor. "The presence of this mutation was also linked to higher KRAS protein levels and associated with an increased capacity for these cells to spread. It also may explain the higher risk of ovarian cancer in women who have had endometriosis."

The Yale team is the first to identify a cause of this common and previously little understood disease. "This mutation potentially represents a new therapeutic target for endometriosis as well as a basis of potential to determine who is at risk for developing endometriosis," said Taylor.

Explore further: Reproductive disorder linked to increased risk of inflammatory bowel disease

More information: EMBO Molecular Medicine, DOI:10.1002/emmm.201100200

Related Stories

Reproductive disorder linked to increased risk of inflammatory bowel disease

December 20, 2011
Women with endometriosis are up to twice as likely to develop inflammatory bowel disease as those without this reproductive disorder, suggests a large study published online in Gut.

Recommended for you

New approach to studying chromosomes' centers may reveal link to Down syndrome and more

November 20, 2017
Some scientists call it the "final frontier" of our DNA—even though it lies at the center of every X-shaped chromosome in nearly every one of our cells.

Genome editing enhances T-cells for cancer immunotherapy

November 20, 2017
Researchers at Cardiff University have found a way to boost the cancer-destroying ability of the immune system's T-cells, offering new hope in the fight against a wide range of cancers.

A math concept from the engineering world points to a way of making massive transcriptome studies more efficient

November 17, 2017
To most people, data compression refers to shrinking existing data—say from a song or picture's raw digital recording—by removing some data, but not so much as to render it unrecognizable (think MP3 or JPEG files). Now, ...

Genetic mutation in extended Amish family in Indiana protects against aging and increases longevity (Update)

November 15, 2017
The first genetic mutation that appears to protect against multiple aspects of biological aging in humans has been discovered in an extended family of Old Order Amish living in the vicinity of Berne, Indiana, report Northwestern ...

US scientists try first gene editing in the body

November 15, 2017
Scientists for the first time have tried editing a gene inside the body in a bold attempt to permanently change a person's DNA to try to cure a disease.

Genetic variant prompts cells to store fat, fueling obesity

November 13, 2017
Obesity is often attributed to a simple equation: People are eating too much and exercising too little. But evidence is growing that at least some of the weight gain that plagues modern humans is predetermined. New research ...

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.