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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Uterus Produces Hormonal, Inflammatory, and Immune Molecules

Women think of their female hormones as just estrogen or progesterone; and as only coming from the ovary. We've long known that estrogen is produced at other sites in the body, so it's an over simplification to say that our only female hormones come from the ovary. Some women recognize that our hormones also include testosterone and other 'traditionally' thought of as male hormones, and again, mostly made by the ovaries in a female. Although the uterus doesn't produce any of these hormones, there are over 30 active molecules that produce what can be thought of as endocrine-like functions. The molecules produced by the uterus include lipids, like prostaglandins, cytokines, like tumor necrosis factors and interleukins, and many of the lesser known hormones such as prolactin, relaxin, renin, insulin-like molecules, and a wide variety of growth factors. These functions clearly affect the 'local' uterine activities such as the menstrual cycle and the function of the uterus as a womb when a woman is pregnant, but it's less clear what they do systemically, or what function they may deprive a woman of if she undergoes hysterectomy. Understanding the spectrum of molecules produced, their functions, and their control is one of the main frontiers of gynecologic research.

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