Women might someday take a drug to avoid the bleeding that comes with the menstrual cycle, a study in rhesus macaque monkeys suggests. Beyond enabling a woman to bypass this aspect of her monthly period, such a drug could treat heavy menstrual bleeding that now makes some women anemic and sometimes requires hysterectomy, surgery to remove the uterus.
The compounds being tested operate differently from birth control pills, which provide steady doses of the hormones progesterone and estrogen and thus prevent the brain from triggering ovulation. Instead, two new substances–called ZK 137 316 and ZK 230 211–have stopped menstrual bleeding in female monkeys by blocking progesterone.
In these macaques, as in women, progesterone induces a build-up of tissue and growth of new arteries on the uterine lining, or endometrium. This thickening creates an environment suitable for implantation of a fertilized egg. If the monthly cycle nears its end without such implantation