Today’s Solutions: September 30, 2022

Endometriosis is a painful and incurable gynecological condition that affects more than 170 million worldwide. The good news, however, is that a more effective treatment for endometriosis may be on the horizon.

Endometriosis affects approximately 10% of women during their reproductive years, and while the most common symptom is pain, the condition can also cause bleeding, digestive issues, and fertility problems. The disease gets its name from the endometrium, a type of tissue that lines the inside of the uterus. In women with endometriosis, an endometrium-like tissue forms lesions where it’s not supposed to, such as on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, or outside of the uterus.

While surgically removing the diseased tissue can alleviate some of the symptoms, for 50 percent of women this surgery is not a one-and-done experience: the tissue simply grows back. Women often require three or more surgical attempts to treat their symptoms. In pursuit of an alternative endometriosis treatment, scientists in Oregon turned to nanotech.

For their study, published in the journal Small, the researchers sought out a way to use nanoparticles to deliver a special dye to endometriotic lesions. This dye turns fluorescent once inside the cells, and when exposed to near-infrared light — which can penetrate human tissue — it heats to temperatures that kill them.

When the researchers injected mice that had received transplants of endometriotic lesions with the nanoparticles, they could see the dye in the transplanted tissue within 24 hours. By exposing the mice to near-infrared light, the researchers were then able to kill the tissue.

Should further testing go well, researchers hope to advance to human clinical trials, potentially leading to a new treatment for the painful condition currently affecting so many women.

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