Tuesday, 19 November 2013

What’s Up Doc?

OK so regular readers may have noticed it’s been quiet around here for a while, so firstly sorry about that, I haven’t  disappeared! You may remember way back in March I said that I’ve been accepted onto a PhD studying endometriosis, well now I have officially started so it’s probably a good time to give you all an update on what’s happening.

I’m going to be researching the different roles of an enzyme and a signalling molecule in endometriosis, the role they play and maybe even new ways to approach treatment of endo.

So let’s get down to specifics, the enzyme I’m going to be looking at is named, rather unpoetically, AKR1C3. This is one of the enzymes involved in producing estrogen in the body. Specifically this enzyme converts a weak estrogen, called estrone, to a more potent estrogen called estradiol. In addition this enzyme is also involved in the breakdown of progesterone. Recent studies have shown that the level of AKR1C3 is higher in endometriotic lesions than in the normal endometrium. As many of you will know, estrogen is very important to the survival of endometriosis, so any enzyme involved in the production of estrogen will play a significant role in the disease. So part of my research is going to be looking at whether AKR1C3 is important for the survival of endometriosis and whether inhibiting this enzyme with drug treatment would help to regress the disease.

The signalling molecule I’m looking at is called prostaglandin E2 (or PGE2 for short). This acts like a messenger in your cells, telling them to perform certain actions.  Previous research has shown that PGE2 is very important for many aspects of endometriosis. For example, PGE2 has been implicated in controlling pain, inflammation, hormone production, and altering the function of the immune system, all processes that are altered in some way in endometriosis. Therefore, I’ll also be looking at how inhibiting or attenuating the production of PGE2 may be beneficial to women with endometriosis.

Most drugs for the treatment of endometriosis are hormone based which is why women can get so many side effects from them, some of which can be very unpleasant. However my research will focus on non-hormonal ways of treating endometriosis, which may one day lead to drug treatments with fewer side effects (although that day could be a long way off).

So that’s what will be keeping me busy for the next four years and hopefully the foreseeable future after that. I’ll keep you all updated on how things progress and also get back to posting regular updates on what other endo research is going on the world.