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.
  • Authors 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?

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.

Our researchers now want to use these EGOs to find out more about the causes of miscarriage.

What’s happening in this project?

In this project, our researchers are growing EGOs from women who have had a miscarriage, including women who have had repeated missed miscarriages. They will then use these EGOs to find out more about the causes of 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, and so the team now want to find out what effect Lactobacillus levels have on the EGOs. This will help them to understand whether these bacteria alter how well an embryo is able to implant into the lining of the womb.

The team will also use the EGOs to test new treatments that may be able to prevent miscarriage. By collaborating with Professor Jesus Gil at the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences, the team will screen over 700 drugs that are approved for use in other medical conditions to see whether any of them are likely to help 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.