Start: December 2015
Why do we need this project?
Stillbirth rates in the UK remain unacceptably high. We want to understand more about why pregnancy sometimes goes wrong, so that we can help keep babies safe in the future.
Pregnancy complications such as pre-eclampsia, slow growth, diabetes and premature birth are linked to stillbirth or death soon after birth. Researchers think that there are many possible causes for each individual complication, and that they may also be related.
However, we still don’t know enough about the causes of these complications to be able to diagnose them early and treat or prevent them. We need to build up a better picture of the causes of these interrelated complications, so that we can stop babies dying before and after birth.
What is the Tommy’s Project?
To help with this, our researchers in Manchester set up the Tommy’s Project. This is a ‘biobank’ which provides researchers with samples and data to study the causes of stillbirth and death soon after birth.
Women with either normal or complicated pregnancies donate samples of their placenta, and provide information about their pregnancies. They are approached early in pregnancy, so that we can maximise the amount of information they can provide.
Since November 2018, more than 1,000 women have donated their placenta and other tissue samples for research. These samples are being used by scientists at the Tommy’s research centre in Manchester. The Tommy’s Project in Manchester is also linked with other biobanks at Tommy’s centres across the UK, to form the national Tommy’s Reproductive Health Biobank.
What difference will this project make?
The Tommy’s Project biobank is a vital resource for scientists, enabling them to carry out research which wouldn’t otherwise be possible. By shedding light on complications such as pre-eclampsia, slow growth, gestational diabetes and premature birth, the Tommy’s Project will help us to find ways to prevent stillbirth and save more babies lives.
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.