Using organoids to find out more about the causes of miscarriage

Our scientists are using organoids – miniature organs grown in a lab – to find out more about the lining of the womb and the causes of miscarriage. By testing new treatments on these organoids, they hope to find ways of preventing miscarriage.
  • Author's list

    Professor Jan Brosens, Professor Phillip Bennett, Dr Tom Rawlings, Dr Emma Lucas, Dr David MacIntyre

    Start date: 2021
    End date: 2024

Why do we need this research?

There are millions and millions of bacteria living on and in our bodies. Normally, these bacteria don’t cause any harm, and many are actually beneficial. However, some types of bacteria may actually cause complications during pregnancy and contribute towards miscarriage. For example, our researchers have recently found that a lower amount of bacteria called Lactobacillus in the vagina is linked to increased inflammation that may lead to a higher risk of miscarriage.

Our researchers now want to find out more about how certain types of bacteria can lead to miscarriage, and in particular, they want to see whether these bacteria have an effect on how well an embryo implants into the lining of the womb. 

What’s happening in this project?

The processes that happen when an embryo implants into the lining of the womb can be very difficult to study – research cannot be carried out in humans for ethical reasons and differences between species mean that research carried out in animals is not particularly representative of humans. One solution is to use an organoid – a 3D miniature organ that has been artificially grown in a lab from human stem cells. Scientists have recently managed to grow endometrial gland organoids – or EGOs – which are organoids that replicate the womb lining of individual women.

In this project, our researchers want to grow EGOs from women who have had a miscarriage. They will then use these EGOs to find out more about the causes of miscarriage, for example by looking at the effects that Lactobacillus levels in vaginal bacteria have on the organoids. The team will also use these organoids to test new treatments that may be able to prevent miscarriage.

What difference will this project make?

This project will help us understand more about the ways that the lining of the womb can contribute to miscarriage. By testing drugs on EGOs, it should also be possible to speed up the development of new treatments to prevent miscarriage.