Andrea Braundmeier in lab
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SIU Medicine scientist paves way for better diagnosis of endometriosis

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Endometriosis is a disease in which cells that normally grow inside the uterus grow outside the uterus on the surface of abdominal organs, and can cause pain and infertility. The disease affects 1 in 10 women and causes fertility problems in nearly half of women with the disease.

Andrea Braundmeier-Fleming, PhD, knows the disease well. The SIU Medicine research scientist has suffered from it for over 30 years and it became a motivating factor in her career in medical immunology research. She and her colleagues have published results from a new study that could lead to a more rapid diagnosis of endometriosis.

The group identified markers for the condition that are generated within the patient’s microbiome – the body’s personal microorganism profile. Using samples from the patient’s gut and urine, as well as hormonal profiles, indicated a unique “signature” specific to women that have endometriosis. Currently the diagnosis of disease requires invasive surgery by skilled surgeons that recognize lesions in the abdominal cavity.

“We carry around millions of bacteria and viruses inside ourselves every day which is referred to as our microbiome. Understanding the make-up of our ‘biome’ can tell us our state of health,” Braundmeier said. “We are developing ways that we can use our biome make-up to also diagnose different disease states. Use of non-invasive samples instead of surgery can decrease the time it takes to diagnose endometriosis and also may identify the effectiveness of treatment plans.”  

Dr. Braundmeier-Fleming is an associate professor in the Department of Medical Microbiology, Immunology and Cell Biology and the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at SIU School of Medicine. She is also a faculty member of the Simmons Cancer Institute. She has been awarded more than $250,000 in grants from the Endometriosis Foundation, Department of Energy, Simmons Cancer Institute and SIU School of Medicine for her research in women’s health.

Her latest findings were published in the medical journal PLOS ONE. The work was funded by the Endometriosis Foundation of America and SIU School of Medicine.

In addition to studies of the microbiome, the Braundmeier-Fleming lab is investigating the mechanisms of maternal immune suppression during early pregnancy, and pursuing a better understanding of the regulation of immune cells in the development of gynecological and obstetrical conditions like endometriosis, preeclampsia, ovarian cancer, endometrial cancer and preterm birth.

The mission of SIU School of Medicine is to optimize the health of the people of central and southern Illinois through education, patient care, research and service to the community. SIU Medicine, the health care practice of the school of medicine, includes clinics and offices with more than 300 providers caring for patients throughout the region.

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