Hall: Endometriosis is a gynecological condition that affects about 150 million women worldwide. It has received increased media attention over the past ten years.
This complex disorder that has been largely overlooked by medical research for centuries, occurs when tissues similar to that which line the uterus (endometrium) begin to grow outside the uterus. This can lead to chronic pain that can be either low or high depending on the patient’s condition.
From the onset of symptoms, it may now take an average of 7.5 years for a definitive diagnosis of endometriosis. During this period of medical oblivion, women can experience pain that can be very debilitating on a daily basis.
To help detect the condition more quickly, Dr Barbara Gwen, a biomedical reader and researcher at the University of Hull in the United Kingdom, is developing a test that can diagnose endometriosis almost instantly, in a similar way to the pregnancy test.
Our research studies began in September 2018 after we were successfully awarded a fully funded PhD scholarship from the University of Hull. Lea Coxi is just entering her third year of PhD investigating the effect of hypoxia on endometrial cells, “Barbara Gwen told ETX Studio.
Hypoxia is a deficiency in the supply of oxygen to body tissues.
Nearly immediate results, like a pregnancy test
The procedures currently used to detect endometriosis rely on medical imaging techniques, such as intravaginal and pelvic ultrasound.
In an effort to develop a faster and more practical test, Dr. Barbara Jane researches the field of immunotherapy, using a protein potentially present in the body to determine the presence of endometriosis.
“We’re currently trying to model early hypoxia in the lab using a machine called a hypoxia chamber. We use immortal endometrial cells and subject them to very low oxygen levels to see the effect of that.”
Normally the oxygen level in the uterus is around 5% but when endometrial cells move to the abdomen, the oxygen tension decreases to about 1%. The researcher explained that we want to see the effect of this new environment (in the abdomen) on the behavior of cells.
Although the test may not be ready for a few years yet, the research highlights the need for early diagnosis of endometriosis in order to improve its management and treatment.
In more severe cases, patients with endometriosis may need to undergo surgical procedures to remove the cysts and lesions caused by the condition, generally after years of suffering. However, this type of procedure does not protect patients from relapses.
There is currently no definitive treatment for endometriosis.