The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that roughly 6.1 million women in the United States have some degree of difficulty getting pregnant. This equates to about 10% of the female population between the ages of 15 and 44.
There are many possible reasons why a woman might struggle to become pregnant or to remain pregnant and bring the baby to full term. Doctors, researchers, and fertility specialists continue to look for ways to improve these numbers for aspiring mothers and couples who wish to start a family.
The journal Translational Medicine published a study that looked at how the chronic condition, of endometriosis, can affect a woman’s reproductive organs. This includes how it can contribute to fertility problems as well as lead to infertility.
Statistically, between 30-to-50 percent of women with endometriosis are infertile. Yet until recently, the exact mechanism that is responsible has remained unclear. Research studies based out of the United States and South Korea carefully studied 21 samples from women who are infertile due to endometriosis. They found that the endometrium, which is the inner lining of the uterus was low in a key enzyme known as HDAC3.
HDAC3 primarily helps with gene regulation as well as expression. Any time there is a deficiency in this important enzyme it disturbs the genetic process for supporting a pregnancy.
With this key information in hand, the researchers generated female mice with low levels of HDAC3. Upon closer examination, they found implantation failure, which essentially means that the fertilized egg simply could not attach or otherwise implant itself in the uterine wall.
Causes And Symptoms of Endometriosis
The chronic condition of endometriosis can develop when the cells that line the uterus start to emerge in other parts of the body, such as the pelvis.
Common symptoms of endometriosis often include pelvic pain, abdominal bloating, bowel discomfort, exhaustion, irregular bleeding during menstruation, and vaginal muscle spasms. General discomfort can also affect mood, as well as making it difficult to sleep.
In the study, the researchers noted that determining the HDAC3 mechanism and its impact on fertility may likely open up intervention options for patients where endometriosis has been a clear obstacle for pregnancy.
The obstetrician and fertility specialist, Dr. Joseph Sgroi, from the Federal Council of Royal Australia as well as the New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, noted that the research also indicates that epigenetic medicine may also be used to treat infertility connected to endometriosis complications.
The Promise Of Epigenetic Treatments
Epigenetic medicine works differently from pharmaceuticals in that it attempts to treat disease and conditions by switching on or switching off specific genes that are responsible for regulating bodily functions. In the past epigenetic treatments have largely been used to treat certain forms of cancer. With increasing success rates, the United States Food and Drug Administration has even approved epigenetic treatments for things like T cell cutaneous lymphoma and multiple myeloma.
Dr. Sgroi believes that epigenetic research opens up the possibility of future medical therapies which may likely be able to help women who are with endometriosis. It could then improve their fertility rates as well as help in developing medical therapies that can replace traditional laparoscopic procedures that have been used in the past to remove endometriosis implants from the body.
Dr. Sgroi further noted that the research contributes to the understanding of the implantation process. This information extends beyond patients with endometriosis, as it provides knowledge of the uterine lining conditions that are required for a successful pregnancy.
This has the potential to have a major impact on In Vitro Fertilization treatments in the future. IVF largely focuses on stimulating and harvesting viable eggs, then fertilizing them outside the body. They are then introduced to the uterus. While there are other treatments that can also help improve the chances of successful implantation, much of it is largely up to the woman’s own body.
In a case where endometriosis is a factor, being able to treat it through epigenetics could significantly increase the chances of implantation. Further treatment strategies might also be needed to reduce the risk of miscarriage and allow the woman to carry the fetus to full term.
While there currently is no clear-cut treatment plan for addressing the impact of endometriosis on infertility, new research certainly helps hold up hope for future options.
Source – Buzzfeed