Fibroid tumors the sometimes painful uterine growths affecting many women lack a key protein that plays a role in holding tissues together, according to a study by researchers from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS) and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD)of the National Institutes of Health.
"This finding is a major step in understanding the nature of fibroids and may prove useful in efforts to devise more effective treatments for them," said Duane Alexander, M.D., Director of the NICHD.
The study has been published on line at http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/cgi-bin/jhome/38250, and will appear in the July 2004 issue of Genes, Chromosomes and Cancer.
Specifically, the researchers discovered that fibroids have low levels of the protein dermatopontin. The protein is a key component of the extracellular matrix the elastic meshwork of collagen and other proteins that keeps cells in place. Moreover, the researchers learned that another type of growth, keloids, also lack dermatopontin. Keloids are an overgrowth of thick scar tissue that can form on the skin after a cut or other wound heals. Both keloids and fibroids disproportionately affect African Americans.
Fibroids, also known as leiomyomas, are noncancerous growths that develop in the myoemetrium, the smooth muscle tissue of the uterus, explained William Catherino, M.D., Ph.D, of NICHD's Pediatric and Reproductive Endocrinology Branch.
Women with fibroids may experience painful menstrual periods, pain during sexual intercourse, infertility, urinary and fecal incontinence, and bowel obstruction, Dr. Catherino said. They are also more likely to go into labor prematurely and to experience a miscarriage.
Additional information about fibroids is available from the NICHD publication, Uterine Fibroids. This publication, along with other NICHD publications, is available on the NICHD Web site, http://www.nichd.nih.gov, or from the NICHD Information Resource Center, 1-800-370-2943; e-mail NICHDInformationResourceCenter@mail.nih.gov.
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