Looking at the lining of the womb to find out if a woman is at risk of miscarriage

Scientists are looking at the lining of the womb to find out whether there are particular features that could make miscarriage more likely.
  • Author's list

    Professor Jan Brosens, Dr Joanne Muter, Dr Sascha Ott, Professor Siobhan Quenby, Dr Emma Lucas, Dr Pavle Vrljicak, Dr Mariam Lokman and external collaborators

    Start date: 2018
    End date: 2026

Why do we need this research?

There are two factors that have a big impact on how likely it is that a woman will have a miscarriage. The first is her age and the second is the number of previous losses she has experienced, with the risk of another miscarriage increasing by around 10% after each loss.

Our researchers want to find out more about the causes of miscarriage. They know that the presence of defects in the lining of the womb when a baby is conceived can make a woman more likely to have a miscarriage. At the moment, they’re not sure exactly why.

Our researchers want to find out what features of the womb make repeated miscarriage more likely. 

What’s happening in this project?

The team believe that the presence of defects in the lining of the womb before pregnancy can lead to something called ‘implantation checkpoint failure’. When this happens, the womb lining is neither able to stop the implantation of an embryo that is not fit to develop properly, or to support the growth of high-quality embryos. Both of these scenarios lead to miscarriage.

To look into this further, the team have been studying womb lining samples taken from women before they become pregnant to find out more about the cells and DNA that are present. The team now want to use their knowledge to develop a ‘diagnostic tool kit’ that can be used to assess the state of the womb lining before pregnancy, helping to pick out the women most likely to experience miscarriage. Our researchers will then use Tommy’s Net – which currently contains over 2,000 womb lining samples – to test how well this predictive tool works and to refine it if needed. They will also test the tool by looking at samples taken during a large clinical trial. 

What difference will this project make?

The ultimate aim of this project is to develop a test that can be used before pregnancy to predict the likelihood of a woman having either a first miscarriage or a recurrent miscarriage. This test could be used to identify the women who would benefit most from new treatments that can be used to improve the condition of the lining of the womb – treatments such as sitagliptin, a diabetes drug that our researchers have recently shown could help reduce the risk of miscarriage in some women.

In addition, this research will help us to understand more about the causes of miscarriage and could lead to the development of other new treatments that could help to prevent it.

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.