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Minerva Ginecologica 2011 December;63(6):563-70

language: English

Endometrial seedlings. A survival instinct? Immunomodulation and its role in the pathophysiology of endometriosis

Portelli M. 1, Pollacco J. 1, Sacco K. 1, Schembri-Wismayer P. 1, Calleja-Agius J. 1,2

1 Department of Anatomy, Faculty of Medicine and Surgery, University of Malta, Tal-Qroqq, Malta;
2 Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Mater Dei Hospital, Birkirkara, Malta


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Endometriosis occurs when ectopic cells from the endometrium implant within the peritoneum. It is considered as a disease of multifactorial aetiology and affects 7-10% of women of reproductive age worldwide. In endometriosis, the immune system is thought to be dysfunctional and various studies have shown cytokine imbalance. Commonly upregulated cytokines include Tumour necrosis factor-alpha, interferon gamma and interleukin-10. Through analysis of the molecular makeup of the peritoneal fluid, a change is shown to occur, conferring resistance from macrophages and lymphocytes to endometrial cells. This is possibly due to a reduced Inter-cellular adhesion molecule-1 synthesis. Survival of ectopic endometrial cells also arises through the expression of human leukocyte antigens. Apart from the survival of ectopic/eutopic cells in endometriosis, there is marked cellular proliferation, which has also been attributed to a change in the expression of proteins such as Bcl-2-Associated X protein, B-cell lymphoma-2 protein, transforming growth factor-beta and the enzyme aromatase. Danazol and aromatase inhibitors modulate the immune system, thus allowing partial restoration of cytokine levels. Pharmacogenomics may be the way forward in developing novel treatment modalities for endometriosis.

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markportellicaruana@gmail.com