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Molecular signals lead to miscarriage

Friday January 4th, 2013

Scientists may have discovered molecular signals that make some women prone to suffer miscarriage.

The research, carried out at Imperial College London and the University of Warwick, UK, could lead to drugs that would help to prevent miscarriage in women who vulnerable.

Scientists know scant details about the biological processes that control when an embryo is implanted in the womb, but this study, published in the Public Library of Science journal ONE, identified a key role for a molecule called IL-33, which the cells secrete during the receptive phase and which influences the activity of nearby cells.

The effects of IL-33 and other chemical signals in the lining of the womb are usually short-lived and this ensures that woman can conceive only during certain days of the month.

But cells from women who had suffered three or more miscarriages continued to secrete high levels of IL-33 for 10 days, which suggests that receptiveness of the uterus was not controlled properly.

Looking at the effects of the molecular signals on fertility in mice, the researchers found that chemicals produced by cells from women with repeated miscarriages extended the time during which mice could become pregnant, but also made miscarriages more likely.

Dr Madhuri Salker, from the Department of Surgery and Cancer at Imperial College London, said: “Our study suggests that in women who have had successive miscarriages, the mechanisms that control whether the womb can accept and support an embryo don't work properly.

“This might mean they can become pregnant with poor quality embryos or that the embryo implants in an unsupportive environment, which would seriously compromise the chances of a successful pregnancy.”

Professor Jan Brosens from the University of Warwick, added: “The molecular signals we identified are known to be involved in a range of diseases, including Alzheimer's, asthma and heart disease. Our findings suggest that targeting these molecules might also be a promising strategy for developing treatments that would prevent miscarriages in women who are especially vulnerable.”

M.S. Salker et al. Disordered IL-33/ST2 activation in decidualizing stromal cells prolongs uterine receptivity in women with recurrent pregnancy loss. PLoS ONE 7(12): e52252. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0052252 [abstract]

Tags: Childbirth and Pregnancy | UK News | Women’s Health & Gynaecology

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