A research project focused on investigating the possible relationship between environmental pollutants and endometriosis has been given a $1.6-million grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, which is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The project will be led by Anna Pollack, PhD, an associate professor at the George Mason University College of Health and Human Services, together with co-investigators Germaine Buck Louis, PhD, and Jenna Krall, PhD.
The study will look for possible links between the reproductive disease and endocrine-disrupting chemicals commonly found in human diets and household products. Such chemicals may have negative developmental, reproductive, and neurological effects.
The investigation is unique in that it will gauge concentrations of chemicals both inside and outside of the uterus (womb). The main goals of the study are to assess whether endocrine disruptors found inside the uterus could be linked to endometriosis, and whether those found in tissues outside the uterus could be associated with disease severity.
The project will use data and tissue specimens gathered from the “Endometriosis: Natural History, Diagnosis, and Outcomes” (ENDO) study. The study, conducted at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, enrolled 495 women, ages 18–44, with or without endometriosis, who had laparoscopic surgery (a diagnostic procedure used to examine organs within the abdomen).
In the current investigation, the scientists will study tissues obtained during these surgeries to assess the concentrations of endocrine disruptors inside the uterus of women with endometriosis and healthy women.
“NIH support for this research will shed insight about endocrine disruptors’ roles in the development of gynecologic diseases such as endometriosis,” Louis, dean of the College of Health and Human Services and principal investigator of the ENDO study, said in a press release.
“As an emerging leader in public health research, George Mason University is a natural place for this research to take place,” Louis added.
The investigation will focus on polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) and persistent organic pollutants (POPs), two classes of endocrine-disrupting chemicals that remain in the human body for a long time following initial exposure. PFASs are commonly found in water systems and in household items, such as stain-resistant fabrics and nonstick frying pans, while POPs have not been produced in the U.S. for several years.