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May 2016

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Endometriosis researchers Jane Girling and Sarah Holdsworth-Carson at the Royal Women’s Hospital.

Early diagnosis the goal of research into endometriosis

Royal Women’s Hospital researchers Jane Girling and Sarah Holdsworth-Carson share a goal of finding better ways to diagnose and treat endometriosis.

Endometriosis is a complex and frustrating disease that affects women whose uterus lining cells grow outside it.

Dr Girling is a University of Melbourne Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology senior research fellow and Dr Holdsworth-Carson a research fellow.

They said endometriosis was influenced by multiple genetic and environmental factors.

They hope to identify the biological processes responsible for endometriosis, which may help with the development of novel therapies and better diagnosis for early detection.

‘Extensive genetic studies from collaborators at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR) have identified several genetic variations that contribute to increased risk of endometriosis,’ Dr Girling said.

By examining one of the world’s largest genetic databases with matched clinical, genetic and molecular information for more than 500 women from The Women’s, the team might be able to identify common pathways affected by the different genetic risk variations.

‘That would provide the basis for future mechanistic studies investigating pathways modified in the development of endometriosis.’

This project would not be possible without the staff and patients of The Women’s.

If successful, these studies would ultimately benefit the large number of women coping with endometriosis in the community, including young women, Dr Holdsworth-Carson said.

‘We are also very keen to identify young women at risk,’ Dr Girling said.

‘And, ultimately, we hope to develop early diagnosis for young women.’

The University of Melbourne received a $1.18 million NHMRC project grant to investigate the genes that increase risk for endometriosis.

The four-year grant from 2016 to 2019, for research at The Women’s, will enable Professor Peter Rogers, Professor Grant Montgomery (QIMR) and Dr Girling to continue work on the ‘identification and function of genes that increase the risk for endometriosis.’

Professor Rogers is research director at The Women’s and Professor of Women’s Health Research at the University of Melbourne.