The creation of new blood vessels in the body (angiogenesis) is usually discussed in connection with healing wounds. But it's also an ongoing process in the female reproductive tract, where the growth and breaking of blood vessels is a normal part of the menstrual cycle. But when abnormal growth of blood vessels occurs it can lead to conditions such as endometriosis.
Now, Tel Aviv University researchers say they have found a potential treatment for abnormal growth in a potent physiological anti-angiogentic factor, PEDF. Administered by simple injection, the researchers say the protein reverses the symptoms of related diseases without compromising fertility.
The new findings, reported in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, Human Reproduction, and Molecular Human Reproduction, could provide relief for millions of women worldwide.
Researcher Ruth Shalgi said there are two primary pathologies associated with angiogenesis in the female reproductive system. One is endometriosis, characterized by the passage of uterine cells to other locations in the body during menstruation, which causes severe pain and reduced fertility. The other is ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS), a possible side effect of IVF treatments. This is a potentially life-threatening disease with symptoms including abdominal pain and swelling.
Approximately 170 million women suffer from endometriosis worldwide, and about 10 percent of women receiving IVF treatment develop OHSS. No treatment currently exists for either of these conditions.
The effect of PEDF in decreasing abnormal angiogenesis has been extensively investigated in the eye and in tumors but the new study is the first to explore its effects on blood vessel growth in the female reproductive system.
Using mouse models of both endometriosis and OHSS, the researchers observed PEDF produced a "perfect reversal" of all symptoms, including reduced abdominal swelling in OHSS-induced mice and eradicated lesions in endometriosis. When evaluating whether this protein might affect fertility, they confirmed that PEDF had no negative impact on ovulation or pregnancy rate.
Shalgi said the next step is to commercialize the protein for therapeutic use. This discovery has been patent protected and is currently undergoing commercialization by Ramot, the technology transfer company of Tel Aviv University.
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Source: Tel Aviv University