The country's first national research centre dedicated to early miscarriage has opened at Imperial College London.
The centre, funded by Tommy’s - the UK baby charity, will seek to understand why miscarriage happens, if it is likely to happen again and how to prevent it.
Miscarriage is by far the biggest cause of pregnancy loss in the UK – yet it’s also the least understood by medical science. Around 250,000 mothers and their partners are affected by miscarriage every year, with 85 per cent of miscarriages occurring within the first 12 weeks. Parents often receive no answers when it happens. Tommy’s aims to halve the number of miscarriages by 2030 by funding medical research to understand the cause and effect of miscarriage.
Miscarriage has always been something “people don’t talk about”. By putting their name and backing behind this national centre, Tommy’s will break this taboo.
– Professor Tom Bourne
Faculty of Medicine, Imperial
In the first five years the centre will investigate a number of areas. These will include the genetic causes behind miscarriage, including a possible connection to damaged DNA in sperm. Researchers will also investigate the role of bacteria in miscarriage – to gain a new understanding of the role of the oral, gut and vaginal microbiomes in shaping early pregnancy outcomes. Teams will also research how to predict the risk of miscarriage, as well as identifying the best ways to support women who have experienced miscarriage.
The centre will comprise a partnership of three universities: The University of Birmingham, The University of Warwick, and Imperial College London, working with their affiliated NHS Trusts. Birmingham Women’s Hospital, University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust, St Mary’s Hospital in London and Queen Charlotte’s and Chelsea Hospital in London will run specialist miscarriage clinics enabling 24,000 women per year to access treatment and support and participate in Tommy’s research studies.
Professor Phillip Bennett, Director of the Institute for Reproductive and Developmental Biology at Imperial College London said: “As a doctor, I wish I could give my patients the answers they are looking for. The thing is, we have the expertise, the technology, the drive - we just need the funding. Tommy's National Centre for Miscarriage Research is the most promising chance yet of making breakthroughs in early miscarriage.”
Professor Tom Bourne, from the Department of Surgery and Cancer at Imperial, and consultant gynaecologist at Queen Charlotte’s and Chelsea Hospital added: “Miscarriage has always been something “people don’t talk about”. By putting their name and backing behind this national centre, Tommy’s will break this taboo. This will hopefully lead to a much greater emphasis being given to understanding why miscarriage happens - and what we can do to prevent it. The collaboration will draw on established research strengths at Imperial, such metabonomics and microbiome, as well as ultrasound imaging. We will also investigate the psychological impact of early pregnancy loss and how we can best treat this."
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