Research & Innovation
Up to 15 percent of women suffer from endometriosis, in which tissue normally found in the uterus grows elsewhere in the body. Now, a discovery that certain immune cells trigger angiogenesis—the formation of new blood vessels—opens the possibility of more effective, less toxic treatments.
Angiogenesis, which stimulates growth of cancerous tumors, also encourages small, symptomless endometriosis lesions to enlarge, causing pelvic pain and infertility. Working in a mouse model, research fellow Ofer Fainaru, MD, PhD, and colleagues in Vascular Biology found that dendritic cells, part of the immune system, invade endometriosis lesions, and that new vessels soon form nearby. Fainaru thinks the dendritic cells send signals that attract endothelial cells, which help build blood vessels, to the lesions.
If the findings hold true in humans, Fainaru hopes to find a way to kill or alter dendritic cells so that endometriosis lesions remain tiny and harmless. The study was published online in September by the journal FASEB; Judah Folkman, MD, director of the Vascular Biology Program, was senior author.