Exploring new techniques to diagnose genetic problems in miscarriage

Tommy’s scientists are investigating whether using two new methods to study the placenta could reveal more information about the genetic causes of miscarriage.
  • Authors list

    David MacIntyre, Zolten Takats, Phillip Bennett, Tom Bourne

Start: 2016

End: 2019

Why do we need this research?

At the moment, techniques that can find out if a miscarriage was caused by genetic problems 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.

What’s happening in this project?

To do this, researchers funded by Tommy’s are looking at two techniques: Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) and Mass Spectrometry (MS). Both 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 of chemicals 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 chemicals by how heavy they are. MS is more sensitive at picking up traces but is also more expensive and time-consuming.

Our researchers think that these techniques could be used to detect differences in the placentas of women who suffered a miscarriage. Therefore, our researchers are carrying out a study to see if this is possible. So far, they have used MS to analyse nearly 30 samples of placenta. They are continuing to use NMR and MS to study a range of samples from the placenta and womb.

What difference will this project make?

By finding new ways to detect genetic problems that could have led to a miscarriage, Tommy’s researchers will help give parents the answers they need to understand their loss.

Thanks for your interest in our research

Tommy's funds research across the UK investigating the reasons for miscarriage, stillbirth and premature birth. We can keep you updated on ways you can support our work. If you would like to join our fight against baby loss and premature birth, click here.