“Endometriosis is an enigmatic disease.” This phrase—found in scores of endometriosis research publications—reflects how hard it is for scientists and clinicians to make sense of three things:
- the wide range of ways endometriosis afflicts patients,
- the diversity of patient responses to available therapies for the disease, and
- the failure of many patients to respond to any existing therapies.
In other words, endometriosis is the quintessential kind of problem that engineers love to solve.
“Endometriosis is a hugely important societal problem, impacting tens of millions of women and the people who love them,” explains Linda Griffith, co-director of CGR. “Diagnosing and treating it is multi-faceted, requiring individuals with many different kinds of expertise to join forces across very disparate fields to work as a team to solve complex problems.”
Bringing experts together to conquer the enigmas of this disease is at the heart of CGR. The Center was founded as a unique collaboration between an MIT patient-engineer experienced in tissue engineering, and a pioneering surgeon with a long track record of inventing new tools for diagnosing and treating gynecology diseases. Together, they lead a vibrant, integrated research team that melds their clinical, basic science, and engineering skills to define and communicate near-term and long-term research goals in ways that draw in myriad other researchers from their respective communities.
“Lab meetings” may start with a surgical video showing hysteroscopic resection of adenomyosis, describing the clinical motivation for the procedure. This is followed by a spirited discussion of how to transport the resected lesions to lab, culture them in special engineered environments that model the mechanical and biochemical features of the uterine muscle, and carry out frontier molecular and cellular analyses on lesion behavior to identify possible targets for new drugs using systems biology approaches pioneered at MIT.
Other lab meetings host MIT computer scientists developing technologies that may be deployed in patients’ homes to non-invasively monitor their motion and sleep to assess pain; scientists with specialized expertise in immunology; or clinician-scientists from overseas who bring specialized knowledge of uterine function. These meetings, together with the annual Open Endoscopy Forum conference each fall, nurture a vibrant national and international community of researchers dedicated to improving patient lives.