By Kimberly Bond
Scientists have said a lack of stem cells in the lining of the womb could be the reason thousands of women suffer from recurrent miscarriage.
Researchers at the University of Warwick studied tissue samples donated by 183 patients at the Implantation Research Clinic in Coventry. They discovered a shortfall of stem cells in the lining of the womb could be the cause of accelerated ageing, making them unable to prepare adequately for pregnancy.
Prof Jan Brosens, who led the team, said: “We have discovered that the lining of the womb in the recurrent miscarriage patients we studied is already defective before pregnancy.
“I can envisage that we will be able to correct these defects before the patient tries to achieve another pregnancy. In fact, this may be the only way to really prevent miscarriages in these cases.”
Stem cells occur naturally within our body – those within the lining of the womb (uterus) help to renew the lining during each menstrual cycle (our periods). When an egg is fertilised, the stem cells help to implant the embryo into the womb and develop into a foetus. However, with a shortfall of stem cells, the womb lining ages quicker than normal, causing the woman to suffer a miscarriage.
The research offers hope to those women – currently 1 in 100 – who suffer from recurrent miscarriages, which is defined as the loss of three or more pregnancies. The team will now start developing treatments and interventions for women at risk of recurrent miscarriage.
Prof Siobhan Quenby, the study’s co-author, believes the work is a ‘major breakthrough’ for patients.
She said: “We will start piloting interventions in April 2016. First, we wish to improve the screening of women at risk of recurrent miscarriage by developing new endometrial tests.
“Second, there are a number of drugs and interventions, such as the endometrial scratch, a procedure used to help embryos implant more successfully, that have the potential to increase the stem cell populations in the womb lining.”
Women who suffer from miscarriage are often supported by The Miscarriage Association. Spokeswoman Ruth Bender-Atik said: “The more we learn about the possible causes of miscarriage, the higher the chances of intervention to reduce it’s incidence.
“This research, from a highly regarded team, really moves our understanding forward, raising the possibility of screening and possible future treatments before pregnancy for women with a history of miscarriage.
“As with all research, this is just the beginning and there is more work to be done. But it’s a very exciting beginning and we greatly look foward to further developments.”
Anyone affected by Miscarriage can go to www.miscarriageassociation.org