Why do we need this research?
Tommy’s researchers in Birmingham have reviewed earlier studies to show that damage to the DNA sperm carry can more than double the risk of miscarriage. This is very significant: until now, miscarriage has mostly been thought of as only a female problem. In turn, research has focused only on women, and not men, in trying to understand and prevent miscarriage.
At the moment, we don’t know enough about the role of sperm in miscarriage, as there isn’t enough research on the topic. That’s why Tommy’s is supporting a study looking at how preventing sperm damage might make miscarriage less likely.
What’s happening in this project?
To understand the role of sperm in miscarriage, we need to find out how sperm get damaged in the first place. One way this could happen is if sperm come into contact with something called Reactive Oxygen Species, or ROS. ROS are very reactive chemicals that are made naturally by the body, but can also come from outside sources like smoking. The damage they cause is called oxidative damage.
Our scientists hope to develop a new way of testing for oxidative damage in sperm that will be more sensitive than anything that has been done before. Currently, the team are comparing the different tests available to see which one is best at detecting damage to sperm DNA.
Tommy’s researchers are also organising a trial to test whether using antioxidants could prevent miscarriage. Antioxidants counteract the harmful effects of ROS, preventing DNA damage in the sperm. What’s more, they can be taken as dietary supplements, making them a cheap and simple treatment.
The team are currently inviting 30 couples who have experienced multiple miscarriages to take part in the trial. Men whose sperm has damaged DNA will take antioxidant supplement tablets to see if they have any effect on the quality of their sperm.
What difference will this project make?
The role of sperm DNA damage in miscarriage has been previously overlooked. Our researchers hope their innovative project could give us a new reason for unexplained miscarriages. This could give parents the explanations they need, and provide doctors with the tools to work towards preventing miscarriages in the future.
miscarriage and find new ways to predict and prevent it in the future.
Thanks for your interest in our research
Tommy's funds research across the UK investigating the reasons for miscarriage, stillbirth and premature birth. We can keep you updated on ways you can support our work. If you would like to join our fight against baby loss and premature birth, click here.
More research projects
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In this Q&A, we sit down and chat with with Tom Willmott, a researcher based at Tommy’s Maternal and Fetal Health Research Centre in Manchester. He gives a rare insight into a novel and exciting area of pregnancy health research, known as ‘maternal microbiology’, looking at what we can learn by studying bacteria in the mouths of mums-to-be.
A recently published article, co-authored by Professor Catherine Williamson from Tommy’s Research Centre at King’s College London, suggests that certain pregnancy complications can indicate future health issues for women.
Tommy’s has received a grant from the UK Government’s Department for Health and Social Care to support the costs of its PregnancyHub information and support services throughout the summer, due to rising demand in the wake of coronavirus.