Start: September 2020
End: September 2022
Why do we need this research?
Pre-eclampsia affects up to 6% of pregnancies in the UK. Occasionally, pre‑eclampsia can result in severe health problems which can threaten the life of both mother and baby. 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 so that we can develop new ways to treat it and reduce the risks for mother and baby.
What’s happening in this project?
During early pregnancy, the lining of the womb matures in preparation for the embryo. Researchers are discovering that problems with this maturation process may play a role in pre-eclampsia. Our scientists now want to look at what happens in this maturation process, and why it might be going wrong.
The team are focussing on two types of cells in the lining of the womb. One group are ‘stromal cells’ which support the normal function of the womb. The other are cells of the immune system, which move into the womb lining during early pregnancy.
Our researchers think that the communication between these stromal and immune cells during early pregnancy is crucial while the womb lining is maturing. They also think that a breakdown in communication between these two cell types is what’s contributing to pre-eclampsia.
In this project, the team are studying the stromal and immune cells taken from samples of placenta and womb donated by women at various stages of pregnancy, some who have experienced pre‑eclampsia. They will identify how the cells communicate with each other, and whether this changes during pre‑eclampsia.
What difference will this project make?
Our researchers believe that this project will enable a “step-change in our understanding of pre‑eclampsia”. They hope that their work could lead to new treatments for the condition, and reduce the risk of complications and stillbirth.
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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.
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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.