Endometriosis is a common medical problem in women and is characterized by tissue similar to the lining of the uterus also being found elsewhere in the body, most often in the abdominal cavity.
The most common symptom of endometriosis is pelvic pain. Usually occurring with menstruation, a woman with this condition may experience pains at other times during the monthly cycle. Causing severe pain, endometriosis affects about 15 percent of women and is also the cause of infertility in as many as 50 percent of women with this condition.
Researchers at the University of Liverpool have discovered an enzyme, telomerase, that is released by cells in the inner lining of the womb during the late menstrual cycle stage in women affected by endometriosis.
Dr Dharani Hapangama, from the University's Department of Reproductive and Developmental Medicine, says: "We found the telomere – a region at the end of all chromosomes that prevents the chromosome destroying itself during cell division – is abnormally long in women with endometriosis. During menstruation telomeres normally shorten in length with each cycle of cell division until they reach a certain length at which they can no longer divide. An enzyme called telomerase can extend the length of the telomeres so that they can continue to divide and this can happen in some special cells such as sperm and egg cells, but not normally in cells that make up the organs of the body.
Our research shows, however, that cells in the lining of the womb are unique in that they can express this enzyme in the early stages of the menstrual cycle when cell division is important, but not during the latter stages when implantation of the fertilised embryo becomes a priority.
Women who have endometriosis express this enzyme in both the early and late stages of the menstrual cycle which means that the cells will continue to divide and lose their 'focus' in supporting the establishment of a pregnancy. As a result the lining of the womb may be more hostile to an early pregnancy, and the cells that are shed at this late stage in the menstrual cycle may be more 'aggressive' and more able to survive and implant outside the uterus, causing pain in the pelvic or abdomen area."
This research has been published in Human Reproduction and will be used to give scientists further information into the treating of this condition that so many women suffer from.
Source: University of Liverpool