Endometriosis, which can result in infertility, menstrual cramps, and pelvic discomfort, affects up to 15% of American women of childbearing age. When uterine tissue spreads outside of the uterus, it is known as endometriosis. If this growth develops and bleeds, it could result in discomfort and other symptoms.
“Endometriosis depends on estrogen, a hormone well known for regulating a woman’s reproductive functions. Estrogen also affects other organs such as the heart and blood vessels, bones, breasts, skin, hair, mucous membranes, pelvic muscles and the brain,” said corresponding author Dr Sang Jun Han, associate professor of molecular and cellular biology and in the Center for Reproductive Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.
Treatments centred on gradually reducing oestrogen and employing anti-inflammatory medications have been inspired by endometriosis’ dependency on oestrogen and inflammation.
“However, current endometriosis treatments have low efficacy, high recurrence rate and cause adverse effects in other tissues affected by estrogen,” said Han, who also is a member of Baylor’s Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center. “Our goal in this study published in the Journal of Biomedical Science was to look for a better treatment for this condition.”
Estrogen receptors (ERs) ER-alpha and ER-beta, which mediate the actions of the hormones on cells, play crucial roles in the development and progression of endometriosis since it is an estrogen-dependent illness. The Han lab and other researchers’ earlier work has demonstrated that ER-beta plays a crucial role in the development of endometriosis.
“These findings suggest that selectively suppressing the activity of ER-beta could help treat the condition without side effects of current hormonal therapies targeting ER-alpha,” said first author Dr Yuri Park, a postdoctoral associate in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology at Baylor.
Han and his coworkers screened a library of natural products using cells in the lab in search of substances that may be utilised to treat endometriosis as non-hormonal therapy. The researchers discovered that oleuropein, a naturally occurring substance present in olive leaves, selectively inhibits ER-beta activity while not ER-alpha activity. Additionally, they discovered that oleuropein effectively inhibits the development of mouse and human endometriosis lesions in mouse models.
“In addition, oleuropein treatment was neither toxic to the liver nor did it affect the ability of female mice to have offspring,” Han said. “In mice with endometriosis, oleuropein improved the pregnancy rate. We are excited by these promising findings as they support further exploration of the value of oleuropein as naturopathy for human endometriosis treatment. Oleuropein is less expensive than hormonal therapy, and our current findings suggest that it is safer than current treatments.”