Endometriosis, the invasive displacement of uterine tissue into surrounding organs, affects at least 10 percent of women. The disease, which is often misdiagnosed, can cause severe pain and infertility, but very little is known about how it arises.
In 2009, biological engineer Linda Griffith launched the Center for Gynepathology Research at MIT to study endometriosis and similar diseases. One of the center’s goals is to learn more about the molecular and cellular basis of endometriosis, to give scientists better drug targets and help doctors decide how to best treat individual patients.
Griffith and colleagues have now taken a step toward that goal, identifying a pattern of immune system signaling molecules that correlates with certain symptoms of endometriosis. They also identified the underlying cellular activity that produces this signature.
This signature, described in the Feb. 5 issue of Science Translational Medicine, could help scientists develop a patient stratification system similar to that used for breast cancer patients, whose treatments are tailored to the molecular profile of their tumors, says Griffith, the School of Engineering Professor of Teaching Innovation in MIT’s biological engineering and mechanical engineering departments, and a senior author of the paper.