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Nanotechnology Shows a Promising Treatment for Endometriosis

An accurate, nanotechnology-based treatment has been developed by researchers to mitigate the pain and fertility issues linked with endometriosis. Endometriosis is a common gynecological condition that occurs in women of childbearing age.

As part of a study, performed under the guidance of Oleh Taratula from the Oregon State University (OSU) College of Pharmacy and Ov Slayden from the Oregon National Primate Research Center at Oregon Health & Science University, dye-loaded photo-responsive nanoparticles were used to detect and remove the lesions connected with the disorder.

The results of the study were recently reported in the Small journal.

The innermost layer of the uterus is called the endometrium. Endometriosis takes place when tissues looking like endometrium develop lesions outside the uterine cavity—which typically includes the fallopian tubes, the tissue lining the pelvis, and the ovaries. Endometrial tissue may get distributed beyond the pelvic organs on rare conditions.

Approximately 35% to 50% of women with infertility and or pelvic pain suffer from endometriosis, while 10% of childbearing-age women are affected by this disorder.

No cure is available yet for this disorder, even though fertility can be improved through surgical removal of the lesions. However, the downside of this procedure is that the lesions reappear about half the time, and over one-quarter of patients who underwent endometriosis surgery requires three or more operations because it is difficult to identify all of the diseased tissue that needs to be sectioned out.

Both Taratula and Slayden, in a joint association that also included OSU’s Carlson College of Veterinary Medicine, utilized tiny polymeric materials—that were less than 100 nm in size—packed with a dye that can produce both cell-killing heat and a fluorescence signal under near-infrared light.

For physicians, that means the polymeric material can be used as a lesion-removal method and also as an imaging tool.

We built our strong team to combine expertise in both nanomedicine and endometriosis. This is a devastating disease, and we developed and evaluated the photo-responsive nanoagent to detect and eliminate unwanted endometrial tissue with photothermal ablation.

Olena Taratula, Researcher, College of Pharmacy, Oregon State University

This implies that when the dye-loaded nanoparticles are injected into the body, they fluoresce to reveal the location of the lesions and also destroy them with heat, because the particles increase to 115 °F when exposed to near-infrared light.

The challenge has been to find the right type of nanoparticles. Ones that can predominantly accumulate in endometriotic lesions without toxic effect on the body, while preserving their imaging and heating properties.

Oleh Taratula, Researcher, College of Pharmacy, Oregon State University

Slayden’s group developed a clinically relevant animal model of endometriosis at the primate center. The researchers used this model to demonstrate that the nanoparticles developed by the Taratula group can efficiently build up endometrial tissue 24 hours after being administered.

Slayden is a professor of obstetrics and gynecology and molecular and cellular biosciences at the Oregon Health & Science University’s School of Medicine and is a professor of reproductive and developmental sciences at the Oregon National Primate Research Center.

The heat is produced under near-infrared laser light that is harmless to tissue without the presence of the nanoparticles. The generated heat eradicates the endometrial lesions completely within a day or two. Dr. Slayden and I built this team years ago to help surgeons to better visualize and treat endometriosis lesions, and we’re getting close.

Oleh Taratula, Researcher, College of Pharmacy, Oregon State University

According to Oleh Taratula, to move the technology to human clinical trials, future studies are required to verify the treatment method in animals that develop endometriosis just like how it manifests in humans. The National Institutes of Health has awarded a grant to the research group to assess the efficiency of the nanoparticles in macaques that have endometriotic lesions.

Taratula continued, “We believe that our developed strategy can eventually shift the current paradigm for endometriosis detection and treatment. In general, nanomedicine has barely been explored for imaging and treatment of endometriosis.”

Our results validate that some fundamental principles of cancer nanomedicine can potentially be used for the development of novel nanoparticle-based strategies for treatment and imaging of endometriosis,” Taratula concluded.

The study was financially supported by the National Institutes of Health, the OSU College of Pharmacy, and the Oregon National Primate Research Center.

Both Oleh and Olena Taratula have an adjunct appointment with Oregon Health & Science University.


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