Professor Zondervan – endometriosis and auto-immune diseases

Professor Krina Zondervan at the University of Oxford is investigating the link between endometriosis and auto-immune

Blonde woman smiling into camera
Professor Krina Zondervan

Unravelling the association between endometriosis and auto-immune disease

Endometriosis is a chronic disease causing debilitating pelvic pain and reduced fertility affecting 1.5 million women in the UK (176 million worldwide).

Endometriosis is a little-known chronic and debilitating condition where tissue from the lining of the womb is found growing outside, such as the bladder, bowel, fallopian tubes and ovaries

Treatments are limited to repeated surgeries to remove disease tissue, and hormonal drugs with many side-effects.

Endometriosis has a huge impact on the personal and working lives of women and their families. It is estimated to cost the UK economy £8.2bn a year in treatment, loss of work and healthcare, and thus represents a very significant medical and societal unmet need.

Professor Krina Zondervan at the University of Oxford is investigating the link between endometriosis and auto-immune diseases to help identify women at risk and speed up diagnosis.

Krina said: “The most common questions women with endometriosis ask their doctors are: ‘what causes my disease’, and ‘does this mean I am at risk of other conditions’.

As there have been several reports of women with endometriosis also suffering from chronic auto-immune diseases.

In our project, we will investigate whether the connection between endometriosis and auto-immune diseases and investigate the biology underlying this connection to identify the mechanisms involved.

“This work will increase our understanding of fundamental disease mechanisms and enable us to develop urgently needed patient-tailored treatments with fewer side effects – including the potential to re-purpose treatments used in auto-immune diseases, for endometriosis. “

The team will use the UK Biobank (UKBB), a unique comprehensive national health resource, including data on 273,462 women aged 40-69 – of which 5,940 women have been diagnosed with endometriosis and 14,897 women diagnosed with a variety of auto-immune diseases.

In addition, they will look at large-scale datasets available on endometriosis and auto-immune diseases worldwide to investigate biological links.

Using clinical, diagnostic, and genetic data from the UKBB, they will:

1) Assess the risk of different auto-immune diseases in women with endometriosis compared to carefully matched women without endometriosis;

2) Investigate whether links between endometriosis and different auto-immune diseases have a biological basis by testing for shared genetics between the conditions;

3) Use these genetic results to identify shared biological pathways and novel therapeutic target opportunities