Endometriosis is a common disease where endometrial tissue grows outside the uterine cavity, leading to painful periods, chronic pelvic pain and difficulty becoming pregnant. An estimated 5 million women in the United States suffer from endometriosis. Endometriosis leads to poor quality of life in addition to significant economic impact.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for endometriosis. Both medical and surgical management have high recurrence rates. The Hawkins Lab uses well-characterized endometriosis tissues and next generation sequencing as an unbiased approach to determining new pathways that can be targeted for therapy. Importantly, this unbiased approach uses multiple next generation sequencing platforms (miRNAs and mRNAs) combined with bioinformatical analyses. Originally, the lab studied miR-29c, which was significantly overexpressed in endometriomas, playing a role in uterine dysfunction, possibly contributing to infertility.
Future studies in this area involve studying additional miRNA molecules, their regulatory mechanisms, and the downstream impactful gene targets of these miRNA molecules. The Hawkins lab uses a combination of unique cell lines in traditional monolayer, spheroid and 3D bioprinted models to test novel pharmacologic means to regulate these impactful miRNA-mediated pathways. Additionally, the lab has developed the first genetically engineered mouse model that spontaneously develops ovarian endometriosis.
The Hawkins lab received funds from the American Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Foundation (AAOGF) to support further study of this mouse model and refinement of a 3D bioprinted model of endometriosis.