Start: September 2018
End: September 2022
Why do we need this research?
Because the placenta supplies nutrients to the baby to help it grow, any problems with the placenta can mean that babies do not grow properly.
We want to find out more about what causes the placenta to fail, so that we can find treatments that could reduce the risk of stillbirth and improve the health of children as they grow up.
Placentas of growth restricted babies found to be less effective
Glutamine and glutamate are amino acids – building blocks for proteins – that are needed to make sure that babies grow properly. Our researchers have previously found that the placentas of babies who are smaller than expected aren’t as good at transferring these amino acids to the baby as normal placentas.
If we can make the placenta better at transferring glutamine and glutamate, we may be able to enhance a baby’s growth and reduce the risk of stillbirth.
What’s happening in this project?
To do this, researchers funded by Tommy’s are studying the activity of something called the ‘mTOR pathway’ in cells taken from the placenta. The mTOR pathway is a process by which messages get passed inside a cell to make something happen.
Previously, researchers have found that when the mTOR pathway is not working, the placenta can’t take in as much glutamine and glutamate as normal. Our researchers are now doing experiments in the lab to find out if, by reactivating the mTOR pathway, they can make the placenta cells better at absorbing these vital nutrients.
What difference will this project make?
The results of this project will help our researchers understand why some placentas are not very good at transferring nutrients to the baby. This could lead us to find new treatments to overcome this problem, ensuring that babies grow normally and so reduce the risk of 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 BBC News investigation has found that some private baby scanning studios are misleading customers by advertising “reassurance” scans that do not diagnose serious conditions and abnormalities.
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.