Endometriosis strikes 1 in 10 women. It’s extremely painful, and the leading cause of hysterectomies for women in their 30’s. But a bioengineer who gained fame for growing an ear on the back of a mouse believes curing endometriosis could unlock the great secrets of our bodies.
Linda Griffith works for MIT. She’s also suffered from endometriosis since she was 11 years old. In her lab, the only one of its kind, she’s using synthetic tissues to track down the root of endometriosis. This condition develops when uterine lining which isn’t holding a fertilized egg grows where it shouldn’t, gloms onto the outside of the uterus, and then forms a lesion.
Griffith sees the uterus as the ultimate tool for regeneration. It does the same thing month after month, as many as 500 times in a woman’s lifetime. Along the way, the uterus interacts with other organs. Griffith is trying to figure out if those interactions create biomarkers that signal stem cells are moving from the uterus around the rest of the body. Understanding that connection could allow scientists to make new brain cells and insulin-making cells, leading to “self-healing” treatments for Parkinson’s and diabetes. In the short term, it could allow a lab to create a rapid blood test to detect endometriosis, and stop the 7-10 year wait most women endure between symptoms and diagnosis.