Researchers use nanotechnology to develop new treatment for endometriosis

Scientists have developed a precise, nanotechnology-based treatment to alleviate the pain and fertility problems associated with endometriosis, a common gynecological condition in women of childbearing age.

Research led by Oleh Taratula of the Oregon State University College of Pharmacy and Ov Slayden of the Oregon National Primate Research Center at Oregon Health & Science University used photo-responsive nanoparticles loaded with dye to find and remove the lesions associated with the disorder. The findings were published today in the journal Small.

The endometrium is the innermost layer of the uterus, and endometriosis occurs when endometrium-like tissue forms lesions outside of the uterine cavity – usually involving the ovaries, the fallopian tubes and the tissue lining the pelvis. On rare occasions, endometrial tissue may spread beyond the pelvic organs. Roughly 10% of childbearing-age women will experience endometriosis, and 35% to 50% of women with pelvic pain and or infertility suffer from the disorder.

There’s no cure, although surgical removal of the lesions can improve fertility. The downside, however, is that the lesions come back about half the time, and more than one-quarter of endometriosis surgery patients need three or more operations because it’s hard to find all of the diseased tissue that needs to be removed.

Taratula and Slayden, in a collaboration that also included OSU’s Carlson College of Veterinary Medicine, used tiny – less than 100 nanometers in size – polymeric materials packed with a dye that can generate both a fluorescence signal and cell-killing heat under near-infrared light. For doctors, that means it can be both an imaging tool and a lesion-removal technique.

“We believe that our developed strategy can eventually shift the current paradigm for endometriosis detection and treatment,” Taratula said.

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