Start: September 2017
End: September 2020
Why do we need this research?
There are around 8 stillbirths in the UK every day. It is crucial that we understand more about why stillbirths happen and what we can do to prevent them.
The most common cause of stillbirth is failure of the placenta to provide the baby with the nutrients and oxygen it needs to grow. To study why the placenta may fail, researchers sometimes perform experiments in female mice that are mated at 38–42 weeks old. These mice are classed as having an advanced maternal age, and usually have high stillbirth rates and abnormal placentas.
However, while these mice have helped scientists to understand more about how stillbirth occurs, they have such severe abnormalities that researchers can’t use them to test new therapies that might improve how the placenta functions. We need new way to test treatments to prevent stillbirth.
What’s happening in this project?
In this project, researchers funded by Tommy’s want to find out whether ‘moderately-aged’ mice – mated at 28–32 weeks – might be more helpful for testing new therapies to prevent stillbirth.
So far, our scientists have shown that these mice have abnormal placentas and that their pups do not grow as big as they should, but also that they experience fewer stillbirths than the older mice. The team are now exploring the ways in which the placentas of these moderately-aged mice are failing. For example, they are studying whether the placentas in these mice have problems absorbing nutrients.
Once they have done this, our scientists will test therapies to see if they can reduce stillbirth rates in these mice. They will combine the therapies with small molecules called placental homing peptides, which bind only to the surface of the placenta, ensuring that our therapies are delivered straight to where they are needed.
What difference will this project make?
This project will establish whether these moderately-aged mice would be useful for future research. Ultimately, this will help scientists find new therapies that help the placenta to work more effectively, and so prevent stillbirth.
Join the fight against baby loss
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
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.
Although recruitment to some clinical trials had to be paused when coronavirus hit the UK, scientists at Tommy’s Research Centres across the UK are still hard at work, supporting women and families in our specialist clinics and sharing their latest studies with academic journals.
The day before Mother’s Day, and two days before the UK officially went into coronavirus lockdown, Zara Dawson found out she was having a miscarriage. Her third consecutive miscarriage in less than a year, and fourth consecutive loss, after losing her second son Jesse in 2018 to termination for medical reasons.