On any given day, there are around 800 million women and girls throughout the globe who are experiencing menstruation.
In light of these figures, it may come as a surprise to learn how little there is about menstrual blood itself.
That is something that Dr. Sara Naseri, who is also the founder of the healthcare startup Qvin, wants to see changed. She is of the impression that analyzing this monthly blood sample, which is generally disregarded, might result in the discovery of groundbreaking new health information.
The lack of studies on menstrual blood makes it difficult to provide evidence to support this concept; it will take some time.
Dr. Naseri could only locate one research on monthly blood when she was still in medical school. The study was published in 2012 and analyzed the content and structure of menstrual blood. It also discovered 385 proteins that are specific to menstrual blood.
In addition to blood, menstrual effluent also comprises vaginal fluids, cervical mucus, and cells from the endometrium. The endometrium is a membrane that lines the uterus and continues to expand with each passing month in preparation for the implantation of an embryo.
This allows the endometrial to maintain pregnancy. In the event that pregnancy does not take place, this lining will be expelled via the vaginal canal.
According to Dr. Naseri, “Blood is the most often utilised physiological fluid for the decision-making process in medicine.” “At that moment, I had the notion, ‘Women bleed once a month. Why hasn’t anybody tried to save their health by using this blood?'”
Sara Naseri, co-founder of Qvin, believes menstrual blood has potential applications in the medical field.
The study void is being attempted to be filled by the team at Qvin, who are doing so by undertaking a wide variety of investigations to see whether or not there are relevant links between menstrual blood and blood that have been drawn from a vein or fingertip prick.
Initial findings have shown some promise, but it is clear that further research is necessary.
Menstrual blood testing has the potential to become a practical approach for monitoring or diagnosing a wide variety of prevalent health issues, provided that reliable parallels can be shown.
For instance, if it is determined that the biological indicators for cholesterol and blood sugar levels are comparable, then menstrual blood tests might be used on a monthly basis as a method for monitoring cardiovascular problems or diabetes.
The true promise, on the other hand, lies in the discovery of methods that do not need invasive surgery in order to detect and treat illnesses that impact the female reproductive system.
Because of a paucity of funding for research into female reproductive illnesses, diagnosis may take a long time, patients have relatively limited treatment choices, and testing is sometimes uncomfortable and upsetting for them.
Despite the fact that data indicates that 31% of women have significant challenges with regard to their reproductive health, just 2.1% of the funding for medical research in the United Kingdom goes towards reproductive disorders.
A percentage of people afflicted that is much lower than 50% will seek medical attention.
If you want to test menstrual blood, you’ll have to deal with a lot of opposition and cultural taboos, on top of the fact that there isn’t enough evidence and precedent to support your efforts.
A startup company situated in Berlin, Theblood, needed help locating a lab collaborator who would agree to examine samples of menstruation authors.
“We have to do everything from the ground up, starting from the very, very beginning. “There’s really nothing for testing menstrual blood,” explains the co-founder of Theblood, Miriam Santer. “Labs may test saliva, urine, or stool samples, but there’s just nothing for monthly blood.”
Co-directors of the Rose study are Peter Gregersen and Christine Metz, respectively.
Dr. Christine Metz, a professor and endometriosis researcher at the Feinstein Institutes for Medical Study at Northwell Health on Long Island, New York, says that a “yuck factor” is a significant part of the reason there has been so little study into period blood. Dr. Metz is a researcher at the Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research at Northwell Health on Long Island, New York.
She explains, “When we set out to collect menstrual effluent in order to research it, I had numerous doctors inform us that they can’t ask their patients to do that.” “When we set out to collect menstrual effluent in order to investigate it.” “[However], after making the announcement on social media, we were able to get 6,000 individuals to sign up for our registration. Evidently, they were able to get over the “yuck” element.
It has never been standard practice in clinical gynecology to do tests on menstrual blood.
Endometriosis is one of the most frequent disorders that affect women’s reproductive systems. When tissue that typically lines the uterus develops on the exterior of other organs in the pelvic cavity, it may cause a condition known as uterine protrusion. This condition is exceedingly painful. It affects around 10% of the world’s female population. Surgery is the only way to definitively confirm a diagnosis, which may take as long as 12 years to get at.
Endometriosis is a condition for which there is presently no therapy that is considered to be effective.
Things are progressively getting better, and a large part of the credit for that goes to well-known campaigners like Lena Dunham and Padma Lakshmi for spreading awareness.
However, the current treatment for discomfort is hormones, which may have serious adverse effects, and even a hysterectomy does not ensure that endometriosis lesions will be removed.
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A line of presentational ambiguity
Christine Metz is a member of the team that is doing the Rose (Research Outsmarts Endometriosis) project. This study is looking at menstrual effluent in an effort to speed up the diagnostic process and discover therapies for endometriosis.
It has proven challenging to get financial support for research using menstrual blood. “Oh, you should work in cancer,’ I hear people say to me all the time. There is a much more significant amount of money.’ And you can’t deny it. Stated there is not enough money in the budget to cover this. “It’s worth battling all the time to get a dime, but it’s very, very, very tough,” she adds. “It’s worth fighting all the time to obtain a cent.”
Companies such as Qvin and Theblood are using venture capital financing to pay for their research in the belief that the quickest approach to drive change may be via proving that menstrual blood tests have value as a consumer product. This is one of the reasons why these companies are conducting their studies.
However, all of them acknowledge that teaching the fundamentals of menstruation, such as how to use tampons, sanitary pads, and menstrual cups, is frequently necessary when making a presentation to potential investors.
Miriam Santer and Isabelle Guenou, two members of the blood team, needed help locating a lab partner to help them examine menstrual blood.
It would be much more convenient to test for certain diseases if there were testing options available at home.
After seeing an advertisement on Instagram, 36-year-old Ashley Draper, who lives in Washington, District of Columbia, volunteered to take part in a Qvin research. The purpose of the study was to determine whether or not menstrual blood might be used as a screening tool for cervical cancer.
Because of her abnormal smear test findings, Ms. Draper has been compelled to have cervical cancer screenings once every three months for the last ten years and a half.
In order to do a test for cervical cancer, a physician will first open the vagina with a speculum and then use a tiny brush or spatula to scrape cell samples from the cervix, which is located at the entrance to the uterus. In most cases, there is no provision for pain treatment.
Ms. Draper describes the procedure as “clearly a fairly intrusive technique.” “Even though you’re there to collaborate with the doctor…, when you’re going through the procedure itself, you feel a lot like you’re simply a piece of meat sitting on a table.” They are using some really antiquated procedures.
Ms. Draper is interested in decreasing the high cost of treatment as well as experiencing a greater sense of control over the results of her health. Because it will minimize my worry and offer me more control over what’s going on with the testing, the development of this idea into a product will be a success on its own in the long run.