Endometriosis – improving women’s health

Infertility and endometriosis

Around one third of women with endometriosis will have trouble falling pregnant. Endometriosis symptoms don’t always correlate with the severity of the disease. This means some women with endometriosis are asymptomatic, and may only be diagnosed with endometriosis incidentally when they start trying to have children. Importantly, not all women with endometriosis experience infertility, and many women with endometriosis have children either before or after their diagnosis. Infertility in endometriosis can be caused by: scarring and distortion of the tubes and ovaries, reduced egg quantity and quality caused by damage to eggs in the ovaries, damage to or blockage of the fallopian tubes or lesions that become adherent to the uterus, bowel or pelvic wall.

Our research

Our researchers are working on ways to overcome the infertility associated with endometriosis. This includes developing a minimally invasive test to detect undiagnosed endometriosis in women experiencing infertility. They are also looking at ways to improve fertility treatment for infertile women with endometriosis, by targeting the receptor for a key protein required for embryo implantation. 

  • Can a non-invasive test be used to identify or exclude endometriosis as a cause of infertility?

    Team: Dr Tracey Edgell, Professor Lois Salamonsen

    In 2014, only around 18. 2 per cent of women who underwent IVF in Australia and New Zealand gave birth. Infertility affects around one third of women with endometriosis. Women who have issues falling pregnant may have undiagnosed – and often asymptomatic – endometriosis. Our scientists have already established that elevated levels of an inflammatory protein called stimulating factor CSF3 are linked to infertility and inflammation in the uterus. The scientists used this finding to develop a test to determine the likelihood of an embryo implanting and a woman falling pregnant. The team is now looking at whether the same protein is implicated in inflammation associated with endometriosis. They are working to establish a minimally invasive test for screening women with unexplained fertility for endometriosis.

  • Can we overcome the infertility associated with endometriosis?

    Team: Dr Tracey Edgell, Prof. Salamonsen, Dr Jemma Evans

    This project will assess whether ‘blockading’ a key protein in the uterus could be used to boost fertility in women with endometriosis. Around one in three women with endometriosis experience infertility. The team has previously demonstrated that for pregnancy to occur in any woman, the receptor for a specific protein called CSF3 must be present in the uterus. In women with unexplained infertility, this receptor is missing or substantially reduced, meaning signalling ‘messages’ from this protein cannot be ‘received’ by nearby cells. The researchers believe that by surrounding or blockading the receptor prior to embryo transfer, its presence can be ensured when an embryo arrives into the uterus. The researchers are aiming to establish the feasibility of receptor blockade as a treatment for infertility associated with endometriosis.