Tommy's news, 17/03/2017
Professor Jan Brosen from Tommy’s National Centre for Miscarriage Research Warwick is giving hope to those having a difficult road to parenthood.
What is this research?
His new research is using a test to look at women’s cells and identify the best time to conceive.
Professor Jan Brosen
The research is still experimental but with more proof, it could be the answer to help us end the misery of miscarriage.
In pregnancy, some women are thought to produce something called natural killer cells. Due perhaps to the name, many women fear that these cells are attacking and killing their embryo.
This can cause a great deal of guilt, on top of the heartbreak of losing a baby.
One Tommy’s supporter suffered five miscarriages and blamed herself for these losses.
‘I wept for years, blaming myself for 'killing' them, never understanding how my body could turn against me when all I wanted was a second child. Through all my years of trying, I was fighting myself.’
What are natural killers cells and how can they affect a pregnancy?
Natural killer cells are actually special immune cells which clear out ageing cells in the womb lining.
Professor Brosen’s research is indicating that a balance between natural killer cells and ageing cells in the womb could actually be to blame for miscarriages.
In a healthy woman, stem cells build up the womb lining by about 10mm over the ten days following her period. This makes it thick enough for a fertilised egg to implant.
But some lining cells age, cease to divide and cause inflammation which can threaten a pregnancy. The killer cells help by clearing out ageing cells and creating a 'honeycomb mesh' which the embryo can implant in.
This process is believed to go wrong in miscarrying women.
How does this process go wrong?
The miscarriage research team at Warwick are doing tests on womb samples and have found that instead of having a regular number of killer cells over the course of a month, the number varied every month in women who miscarry.
'Forty per cent of [recurrent miscarriage] patients had only a few stem cells that could be isolated from the lining of the womb.'
When more stem cells age, it is thought they attract more killer cells, which punch ever bigger holes in the lining. This makes it easier for women to get pregnant, but the large holes can make this vital structure collapse on itself.
The answer to helping these women have a healthy pregnancy could lie in finding times when killer cells are normal, indicating that the womb is ready for a baby.
A Tommy’s supporter who wished to remain anonymous contacted us in support of this research.
‘This research is bang on the money, given my experience! I am so thrilled for potential parents, everywhere.’
The team are offering women a test to help identify the best time to conceive and has so far advised 150 people.
Our CEO Jane Brewin says,
'Professor Brosens' work is arguably the most exciting development in miscarriage and offers real hope to those women who can get pregnant but then suffer miscarriage after miscarriage. The work is still experimental and not in routine clinical practice, but hopefully in the next few years, with more proof, things will change.'
We can’t wait to see the findings of further research. Watch this space for details of upcoming trials.
If you’re interested in taking part in one of our miscarriage trial, go to the drop down menu ‘current research trials looking for participants’ here and see how you could get involved.