Endometriosis and stem cells.
Endometriosis is a disease related to menstruation. It happens when the endometrium, the tissue that makes up the uterine lining, migrates outside of the womb, where it shouldn’t be. The condition further results into a chronic inflammatory reaction that leads to a scar tissue, as the tissue still responds to the monthly fluctuations of a woman’s menstrual cycle. Women with endometriosis experience pain while they’re on their periods, pain in the lower abdomen, or pain during sexual intercourse, and may report also have a hard time getting pregnant. On the other hand, some women with endometriosis may not have any symptoms at all. At present, there is no known cause of endometriosis, and there is no cure.
Usually, endometriosis is found in the pelvic cavity. The endometrium tissue of a woman suffering from endometriosis can attach to any of the reproductive organs like the uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries, uterosacral ligaments, the peritoneum, between any empty spaces in the bladder, uterus, vagina, and rectum. Endometriosis usually affects women in their reproductive years (when they’re 25 to 35 years of age), but can also affect really young women in their adolescent years.
Endometriosis affects 1 in 10 women on a average during their reproductive years (i.e. between the ages of 15 to 49). 10% of the total female population worldwide has endometriosis, which is approximately 177 million women around the world. The prevalence of endometriosis in women with infertility is as high as to 30–50%. The cause of endometriosis is unknown and until a few years, there was no definite cure. But recent developments in stem cell research have proved to be helpful.
In the recent years, Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) have been explored as a potential vehicle candidate for cell-based targeted therapies for the treatment of endometriosis. MSCs are adult stem cells that can be isolated from a various organs and tissues, such as the umbilical cord, adipose tissue, bone marrow and amniotic fluid etc. MSCs are known for their self-renewal, multipotency characteristic and also have a special potential for migrating to sites of inflammation, including tumours and ectopic endometrial lesions and shown promise as a potential therapeutic vehicle for various diseases. Researchers have been studying the the characteristics of human endometrium-derived mesenchymal stem cells and their tropism to endometriosis for a few years now. It was found that endometrium derived mesenchymal stem cells (EMSCs) mainly gathered in endometriotic lesion and few EMSCs were observed in liver and spleen. This shows that the EMSCs have a tropism to endometriotic lesions rather than normal tissues which further indicates their potential for targeted endometriosis therapy. EMSCs have all the properties of MSCs. In conclusion, an increasing amount of evidence suggests that EMSCs can be used for regenerative medicine and that they can be used as an immune regulator to reduce inflammation in the coming years.