For those of us who have wondered just what causes fibroids – and that may be all of us – scientists may have found the answer. It could lie in your genes.
Researchers at the University of Helsinki in Finland studied the genetic makeup of 225 fibroid tumors and discovered that 70 percent of them had mutations in a gene known as MED12. The gene produces a protein that, when disrupted, can possibly cause fibroid tumor growth.
What does this mean for fibroids, exactly? Well, we all have a unique genetic code that is passed down from our parents through our DNA. The expression of this genetic code happens in the form of proteins in that proteins function in our cells to impact the overall cell makeup. You can think of it like baking — the genetic code is the recipe; the proteins are the ingredients, and the whole cell is the cake. Mutations in genes are a bit like using baking soda rather than powder, in that they can cause things to go awry. Genetic mutations have been linked to diseases from color blindness to breast cancer. The identification of these mutations has a tremendous impact on diagnosis, therapy and outcomes, as we’ve seen in identification of genetic mutations associated with breast cancer leading to a dramatic improvement in care.
The University of Helsinki study is a breakthrough in research on fibroid genetics because this is the first time researchers have discovered a gene mutation that occurs at such high frequency in fibroids, according to a study report published recently in the journal Science.
Most significantly, for women suffering from fibroids, the knowledge of this genetic issue could lead to the development of targeted therapies to curb fibroid growth. But the lead researcher, Lauri Aaltonen, cautions that this is only the beginning of the journey toward creating this type of fibroid therapy. We’re cautiously optimistic that the identification of the mutation in the MED12 gene may be a key to impacting diagnosis, therapy and outcomes for fibroid care in the future.