Exploring new techniques to diagnose genetic problems in miscarriage

Tommy’s are researching two ways we could find out about the genetic causes of miscarriage by looking at traces in the placenta.

At the moment, techniques that can find out if a miscarriage was for genetic reasons are too expensive to use widely. Tommy’s want to find a better way of diagnosing genetic problems, so parents aren’t left questioning why miscarriage happened to them.

To do this, researchers are looking at two techniques: Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) and Mass Spectrometry (MS). Both of these could be used to look at samples of the placenta, to find if the baby had genetic problems that stopped it surviving.

NMR uses a magnetic field to look at the very small traces our cells leave behind, that can tell us about what they were doing. It is cheap and fast, but not very sensitive. MS instead looks at these traces by sorting different substances by how heavy they are. MS is more sensitive at picking up traces, but is also more expensive and time-consuming.

We think that differences in the placentas of women that miscarried because of genetic problems in the baby could be picked up using these techniques. We plan to carry out a 3 year study to see if this is possible, so we can start giving parents the answers they need. 


David MacIntyre, Zolten Takats, Phillip Bennett, Tom Bourne

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