Animal studies in endometriosis: a review.
Story L., Kennedy S.
Endometriosis is a common women's health problem that is characterized by the presence of tissue resembling endometrium outside the uterus. The condition causes painful periods, chronic pelvic pain, and subfertility, which are potentially debilitating; and it affects millions of women worldwide. The diagnosis is made on visual inspection of the pelvis, usually at laparoscopy. The natural history is unknown, and well-controlled experiments are difficult to perform because of the need for repeated surgical procedures to assess endometriotic lesions over time. Thus, despite over 50 years' research, the cause of endometriosis remains unclear, and treatment options are limited. Animal models provide an invaluable tool to study risk factors, prevalence, and the natural history of endometriosis especially in those menstruating nonhuman primates that develop the disease spontaneously. Many of the practical problems associated with studying the disease in humans can therefore be overcome. The pathophysiology of endometriosis can also be investigated and new treatments assessed in both nonprimates and nonhuman primates, with "disease" induced by placing autologous uterine tissue in ectopic sites, or human endometrium in the case of nude mice. However, although nonprimates have obvious advantages as a model, the extent to which the induced lesions are truly representative of the disease itself is debatable. This review explores the value of the experimental models that have been used to date.