A breakthrough study from the University of Warwick may have discovered the reason why some women suffer multiple miscarriages. Better still; a treatment may be just around the corner.
During the study, scientists discovered that a lack of stem cells in the womb lining is causing thousands of women to suffer from recurrent miscarriages.
Jan Brosens, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the university, led the team who unearthed the link between stem cells and miscarriage.
"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," he said.
The researchers examined tissue samples from the womb lining, donated by 183 women who were being treated at the Implantation Research Clinic, University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust.
The team found that an “epigenetic signature”, which is typical of stem cells, was absent in cultures established from womb biopsies taken from women suffering recurrent miscarriages.
They also found that fewer stem cells could be isolated from the lining of the womb from recurrent miscarriage patients in comparison with women in the study's control group.
"After an embryo has implanted, the lining of the uterus develops into a specialised structure called the decidua, and this process can be replicated when cells from the uterus are cultured in the lab.
"Cultured cells from women who had had three or more consecutive miscarriages showed that ageing cells in the lining of the womb don't have the ability to prepare adequately for pregnancy," Professor Brosens explains.
Siobhan Quenby is a professor of obstetrics and the co-author of the study. She says that the next challenge is to develop strategies to increase the function of stem cells in the womb lining.
"We will start piloting new interventions to improve the lining of the womb in the spring of 2016,” she said.
According to Miscarriage Support Auckland, as many as three women in every 100 will experience recurrent miscarriage.