Studying the lining of the womb in recurrent pre-eclampsia

Dr Jenny Myers, Olivia Moran, Dr Peter Ruane, Professor Ed Johnstone

A quarter of women who develop pre-eclampsia early in pregnancy will go on to develop it again in future pregnancies. Our scientists are trying to find out why this is the case, by studying cells in the lining of the women. This could lead to new treatments to prevent pre-eclampsia, and so reduce the risk of stillbirth.

Start: October 2021

End: October 2023

Why do we need this research?

Pre-eclampsia affects up to 6% of pregnancies in the UK, and is diagnosed through a combination of high blood pressure and protein in the urine. Pre‑eclampsia which develops early in pregnancy can lead to slow growth of the baby and sometimes stillbirth.

However, there are currently no treatments to cure pre-eclampsia, and in severe cases, the only option is to deliver the baby prematurely. We need to understand pre-eclampsia better in order to develop new ways to treat it and reduce the risk of stillbirth.

What’s happening in this project?

Among women who develop pre-eclampsia very early in pregnancy, around 1 in 4 will develop the condition again in future pregnancies. Previous research has suggested that a possible explanation for this recurrent problem could be in the lining of the womb.

During early pregnancy, the lining of the womb matures in preparation for the embryo. In the lining of the womb there are cells called ‘stromal cells’ which support the function of the womb. These cells are believed to be important in the maturation of the womb lining. Our researchers think that these stromal cells could also be crucial in cases of recurrent pre-eclampsia.

In this project, researchers funded by Tommy’s will study in detail the stromal cells found in the lining of the womb. They will isolate stromal cells from womb samples donated by women with a previous history of pre-eclampsia, as well as women who have never been pregnant, to see if there are any differences between them. The team will also study how these cells communicate with immune cells, which are also found in the lining of the womb. 

What difference will this project make?

The team hope that their research could help us to better understand how pre-eclampsia develops, and why some women experience it repeatedly. This could lead to new ways to prevent the development of pre-eclampsia, and so reduce the risk of pregnancy complications and stillbirth.

Get our research updates

Tommy's funds research across the UK investigating the reasons for pregnancy complications and loss.

If you're interested in being kept updated about our research and news from Tommy's, click here.

More research projects

Help us find out how things go wrong in pregnancy

Read Tommy's new and views

  • A nurse taking a patients blood pressure in a hospital room

    News

    Pregnancy is a unique chance to predict health risks to mums

    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.

  • Rising demand for Tommy's midwives in coronavirus lockdown

    News

    Tommy’s awarded grant to help meet rising demand for support during coronavirus lockdown

    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.

  • Tommy's researchers latest findings

    News

    Tommy’s Research Centres continue vital work on pregnancy complications

    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.

  • Blog

    Miscarriage during lockdown

    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.