The Tommy’s Project: understanding how pregnancy goes wrong

Our researchers are collecting information and tissue samples from thousands of women to better understand the causes of complications that can lead to stillbirth or neonatal death.
  • Author's list

    Professor Ed Johnstone, Jessica Morecroft, Christine Hughes, Kate Widdows, Raianne Wallworth

Start: December 2015

End: Ongoing

Why do we need this project?

Stillbirth rates in the UK remain unacceptably high. We want to understand more about why pregnancy sometimes goes wrong, so that we can help keep babies safe in the future.

Pregnancy complications such as pre-eclampsia, slow growth, diabetes and premature birth are linked to stillbirth or death soon after birth. Researchers think that there are many possible causes for each individual complication, and that they may also be related.

However, we still don’t know enough about the causes of these complications to be able to diagnose them early and treat or prevent them. We need to build up a better picture of the causes of these interrelated complications, so that we can stop babies dying before and after birth.

What is the Tommy’s Project?

To help with this, our researchers in Manchester set up the Tommy’s Project. This is a ‘biobank’ which provides researchers with samples and data to study the causes of stillbirth and death soon after birth.

Women with either normal or complicated pregnancies donate samples of their placenta, and provide information about their pregnancies. They are approached early in pregnancy, so that we can maximise the amount of information they can provide.

Since November 2018, more than 1,000 women have donated their placenta and other tissue samples for research. These samples are being used by scientists at the Tommy’s research centre in Manchester. The Tommy’s Project in Manchester is also linked with other biobanks at Tommy’s centres across the UK, to form the national Tommy’s Reproductive Health Biobank.

What difference will this project make?

The Tommy’s Project biobank is a vital resource for scientists, enabling them to carry out research which wouldn’t otherwise be possible. By shedding light on complications such as pre-eclampsia, slow growth, gestational diabetes and premature birth, the Tommy’s Project will help us to find ways to prevent stillbirth and save more babies lives.