Researchers have identified immune cells that appear to promote the formation of new blood vessels, a discovery that could lead to new methods of infertility treatment.
Around 15 per cent of women of reproductive age are affected by endometriosis, a painful condition associated with infertility.
Endometriosis lesions are known to be promoted by the formation of new blood vessels (angiogenesis) and scientists at Harvard Medical School have now found that highly specialised immune cells called dendritic cells help to trigger the growth of new blood vessels in mice.
By injecting mice with excess dendritic cells, they showed that their endometrial lesions gained more blood vessels and became larger.
The researchers believe that they may be able to treat the condition by targeting dendritic cells and inhibiting blood vessel growth.
Lead researcher Dr Ofer Fainaru, a research associate at Harvard Medical School, said: "We believe that targeting dendritic cells may prove to be a promising strategy for treating conditions dependent on angiogenesis, such as endometriosis and cancer."
The study is published in the FASEB journal.
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