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 gene editing approach for alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency shows promise

October 20, 2017
A new study by scientists at UMass Medical School shows that using a technique called "nuclease-free" gene editing to correct cells with the mutation that causes a rare liver disease leads to repopulation of the diseased ...

Maternal diet may program child for disease risk, but better nutrition later can change that

October 20, 2017
Research has shown that a mother's diet during pregnancy, particularly one that is high-fat, may program her baby for future risk of certain diseases such as diabetes. A new study from nutrition researchers at the University ...

Researchers find evidence of DNA damage in veterans with Gulf War illness

October 19, 2017
Researchers say they have found the "first direct biological evidence" of damage in veterans with Gulf War illness to DNA within cellular structures that produce energy in the body.

Researchers drill down into gene behind frontotemporal lobar degeneration

October 19, 2017
Seven years ago, Penn Medicine researchers showed that mutations in the TMEM106B gene significantly increased a person's risk of frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD), the second most common cause of dementia in those ...

New clues to treat Alagille syndrome from zebrafish

October 18, 2017
A new study led by researchers at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP) identifies potential new therapeutic avenues for patients with Alagille syndrome. The discovery, published in Nature Communications, ...

Genetic variants associated with obsessive-compulsive disorder identified

October 18, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—An international team of researchers has found evidence of four genes that can be linked to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). In their paper published in the journal Nature Communications, the group ...

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.