Human blood is a virtual mother lode of information. Blood samples provide an enormous amount of valuable information about the current and future condition of the donor.
But getting blood work done generally requires a physician’s order, so a visit to the doctor’s office is required. And then another office visit to the lab to draw the blood. The doctor will get the results in a week or so. Another doctor’s office visit will be required to learn those results.
Given all this cumbersome inconvenience, it’s little wonder that many serious conditions, like endometriosis, go undiagnosed for years.
What if you could test your own menstrual blood? From a tampon? At home?
The home pregnancy test came on the market in the mid-1970s. A DIY device for home use that tests your own menstrual blood could similarly advance women’s healthcare.
NextGen Jane is a femtech (shorthand for biotechnical startups run by women), located in Oakland, California. NextGen Jane is seeking to take advantage of the fact that pre-menopausal women naturally provide blood samples each and every month.
NextGen Jane was founded in 2014 by Ridhi Tariyal (she holds an MBA from Harvard and a Master of Biomedical Enterprise from MIT), and some man named Stephen Gire.
Tariyal was awarded a fellowship from Harvard Business School to explore the diagnostic possibilities inherent in menstrual blood. Now NextGen Jane is focused on analyzing menstrual effluents in order to detect changes in gene expression that are indicative of endometriosis.
Endometriosis is a painful condition which occurs when the tissue that covers the interior of the uterus begins growing outside of the uterus. Endometriosis can be excruciating, and it often makes conception impossible.
Diagnosing endometriosis has proven to be a challenge for many doctors. An accurate diagnosis often first occurs 5 to 10 years after the onset of pain.
Menstrual blood contains endometrial tissue
Significantly for the purposes of NextGen Jane, menstrual blood naturally contains endometrial tissue. The presence of such tissue in a woman’s menstrual flow can provide clues that are helpful in diagnosing endometriosis.
The NIH is also interested in menstrual blood as a diagnostic tool
In September of last year, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) convened a symposium concerning the use of menstrual blood as a diagnostic tool.
The meeting was led by Dr. Candace Tingen, a program officer in NICHD’s Gynecological Health and Disease Branch. Dr. Tingen invited three different types of biological specialists, as well as clinicians who are actually treating menstrual problems, to the gathering.
What does menstruation tell us about a woman’s health?
In the podcast that emanated from that symposium, Dr. Tingen explains why the NICHD produced the symposium:
- “We got all of these people from all of these different fields together to ask the question: ‘What does menstruation tell us about health’?
- “We really are in a realm now where we can take the menstrual blood and we can diagnose endometriosis to a certain degree from the tissue that is released from the uterus on a monthly basis.
- “We are learning that the cells that are shed every month are different between women who have endometriosis and women who don’t have it. Scientists can look at how those cells behave in a petri dish and say: this woman probably has endometriosis or this woman probably doesn’t. So there are really phenomenal emerging possibilities.”
As always, we are vitally interested in the exciting progress which is taking place on the frontiers of women’s health. It is encouraging to learn that women are beginning to lead that progress. Let me know what you think. Thaïs
About Dr. Thais Aliabadi
As one of the nation’s leading OB-GYNs, Dr. Thaïs Aliabadi offers the very best in gynecological and obstetric care. Together with her warm professional team, Dr. Aliabadi supports women through all phases of life. She fosters a special one-on-one relationship between patient and doctor. We invite you to establish care with Dr. Aliabadi. Please click here to make an appointment or call us at (844) 863-6700.