Updated February 2015

Photo of test tubes with heading: Our research: current research projects

Current research projects


It’s a sad fact that one in every four women will have a miscarriage. Tommy’s Professor Andy Shennan at the Tommy's London centre sees about 50 women each week who have had multiple pregnancy losses. However, using the research we’re conducting into the function of the placenta and uterus, 90% of those women go on to have a healthy baby.
View our miscarriage projects.


Pre-eclampsia affects four million women worldwide each year and complicates 2–3% of UK births. Characterised by high blood pressure, it often results in premature birth or worse. There is still no screening test available to detect women at risk, so our scientists are looking for combinations of chemical substances that might predict the disease and we have recently made several breakthroughs.
View our pre-eclampsia projects.

Pregnancy health and obesity

Obesity is fast emerging as one of the largest crises in pregnancy health. Nearly 50% of UK women of childbearing age are obese or overweight and these women are at greater risk of miscarriage and other pregnancy problems. We have many projects under way examining the link between obesity and poor pregnancy outcomes. Tommy’s is also researching other key areas in pregnancy health such as mental health and the importance of diet in younger pregnant women. We are also testing the theory that certain adverse conditions experienced during pregnancy might `programme’ the offspring to have a greater risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity and other problems in later life.
View our pregnancy health projects.

Premature birth

More than 7% of UK births are premature (before 37 weeks of gestation). That’s one of the highest rates in Europe and means that many babies and parents have to cope with lifelong problems. To combat this, we’re looking at delaying the causes of contractions and at chemical substances, such as fetal fibronectin, that might allow us to predict which women are likely to go into preterm labour.
View our premature birth projects.


If a baby dies after 24 weeks gestation, it is called a stillbirth. Incredibly, over 4,000 babies are stillborn every year in the UK and many are unexplained. However, our research indicates that stillbirths may occur because the fetus suffers restricted growth due to blood flow problems between mother and baby. Finding ways to treat this is one of the main focuses of our Manchester centre. Obesity also increases the risk of stillbirth and our Edinburgh centre specialises in understanding the effects of obesity on pregnancy health. A number of our scientists are working hard to develop a reliable test to identify those women at most risk, so that they can receive targeted treatment.
View our stillbirth projects.

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