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NPR: This Cellular Atlas Could Lead to Breakthroughs for Endometriosis Patients

Emily Kwong, host of NPR’s “Short Wave” podcast, recently interviewed Kate Lawrenson, PhD, an associate professor in Cedars-Sinai’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, about a study that led to the development of a cellular atlas of endometriosis.

Endometriosis is a disease which affects more than 10% of women and causes tissue to grow outside the uterus on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, tissue lining of the pelvis and in the abdominal cavity. Prominent symptoms include chronic pain, fatigue, infertility, heavy menstrual bleeding, and bowl and bladder dysfunction. As of now, the treatment options—pain medication, hormone therapy or surgery—for women diagnosed with endometriosis are limited.

“We can’t ignore conditions like this that are really robbing us of … many talented women who can’t reach their full potential because of this disease that we just haven’t studied well enough to be able to treat it effectively,” Lawrenson said.

Lawrenson, co-author of the study, told Kwong that she and her team analyzed and profiled 400,000 individual cells from different patients using single-cell genomics technology. Investigators then developed a cellular atlas containing the molecular information of the disease to serve as a resource for further endometriosis research.

“This has been a real game-changer for diseases such as endometriosis, where there are lots of different cell types conspiring to cause that disease,” she said.

Lawrenson and her co-authors hope the data helps improve diagnoses and identify high-risk patients.

“I’ve been in research for, I think, 18 years now, and I’ve seen a big change in that time,” Lawrenson told Kwong. “So, hopefully, the next 18 years we’ll really see differences in how we understand endometriosis and how we can treat it more effectively and diagnose it more efficiently.”

Click here to listen to the complete “Short Waveepisode.