Tommy’s, the UK baby charity that funds research into miscarriage, stillbirth and premature birth, opens the country’s first national research centre dedicated to early miscarriage today (Monday 25 April.)
The University of Warwick is one of the partners of the Tommy's National Centre for Miscarriage Research and will be working with University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust to run specialist miscarriage clinics.
The other partners are The University of Birmingham and Imperial College London, working with their affiliated NHS Trusts. Birmingham Women’s Hospital, University Hospitals and St Mary’s Hospital in London and Queen Charlotte’s and Chelsea Hospital in London. Nationally this will enable 24,000 women per year to access treatment and support and participate in Tommy’s research studies.
Siobhan Quenby, Professor of Obstetrics Division of Reproductive Health, who works at the University of Warwick Medical School and University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire said: “It is wonderful to be able to offer world class research to patients. The centre will allow us to develop new tests and treatments for miscarriage and develop a greater understanding of the cause of miscarriage. The centre gives new hope to couples suffering pregnancy loss.”
In the centre’s first year, £400,000 is being contributed by Tommy’s supporters. This is being matched by £100,000 from the Genesis Research Trust (with a further £100,000 in the second year) and over £700,000 of institutional funding not including overheads.
This national network will seek to understand why miscarriage happens, if it is likely to happen again and how to prevent it. Tommy’s is also investing in research to better support women and their families following a miscarriage.
In the first five years Tommy’s commits to researching:
- Genetic causes including a possible connection to damaged DNA in sperm
- Role of bacteria in miscarriage – new understanding of the role of the oral, gut and vaginal microbiomes in shaping early pregnancy outcomes
- Predicting the risk of miscarriage by developing sophisticated computerised risk prediction models that pull together clinical data from across the UK
- Identifying the best ways to support women who have experienced miscarriage
In addition researchers from the University of Warwick’s Institute of Digital Healthcare (IDH) are using data to help discover why some pregnancies fail.
An online electronic patient record system will be designed and constructed by IDH which will link into three Tommy’s Centres (in Coventry, Birmingham and London). The clinical details and histories of women attending the centres will be entered or uploaded from existing hospital systems into the collaborative online system. The results of current and additional Tommy’s investigations will also be uploaded; these will include thyroid function tests thrombophilia screening, coeliac disease screening and additional Tommy’s investigations such as endometrial tests, sperm function and DNA fragmentation tests.
The team at IDH is led by Professor Theo Arvanitis, Chair in e-Health Innovation and Head of Research. He said: “Around 250,000 miscarriages occur every year, and roughly a third of women suffer more than one of these traumatic events. We'll also be creating a national database, initially by taking information from all three centres."
Once Prof. Arvanitis's team has brought together all the existing online clinical data they will add new data so it will effectively act as a registry for information on miscarriages. They willthen be able to harness the power of the data to identify the major influences on this condition.
Jane Brewin, Tommy’s Chief Executive said, “Medical science doesn’t fully understand miscarriage which is why funding and research is so critical. Through pioneering medical research, Tommy’s clinicians will save babies’ lives by turning their discoveries into screening tests and treatments and launch clinics for pregnant women who are most at risk, giving them the latest improvements in care. They’ll share their work in national clinical guidelines, preventing miscarriages and developing better care across the country.”
Professor Arri Coomarasamy, University of Birmingham and Director of Tommy’s National Centre for Miscarriage Research said: “Miscarriage is a common but deeply personal and often isolating experience for many couples. Tommy's #misCOURAGE campaign is beginning to provide clear evidence on the wide-scale devastation it causes. At the Tommy's National Centre for Miscarriage Research, we are determined to make a difference. The scientists and the clinicians from the three universities and the four trusts constitute a world-class team. We are committed to understand the causes of miscarriage and find ways to prevent it. Tommy's investment in the new Centre is the best thing that has happened to miscarriage research. It will change many lives.”
Miscarriage is by far the biggest cause of pregnancy loss in the UK, and it’s also the least understood by medical science and society which can sometimes refer to it ‘as one of those things’. Miscarriage causes untold heartbreak. 250,000 mothers and their partners are affected every year with 85 per cent of miscarriages occurring within the first 12 weeks which is known as early miscarriage. Parents often receive no answers when it happens. Currently, the NHS only refers women for investigation after they’ve had three early miscarriages leaving parents to endure the physical and emotional trauma repeatedly before they become eligible for help. Tommy’s aims to halve the number of miscarriages by 2030 by funding medical research to understand the cause and effect of miscarriage.
“I had five miscarriages over three years. Now when I look back, I can’t believe I put myself through the heartache and pain so many times but it was my only way of dealing with the loss – get up, dust down and try again. Although we saw specialists we still don’t really know why they happened. There were ‘possible’ reasons and ‘possible’ solutions that made every pregnancy terrifying.” Kate, Tommy’s supporter
“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 Phillip Bennett, Trustee of the Genesis Research Trust and Director of the Institute for Reproductive and Developmental Biology at Imperial College London
Tommy’s #misCOURAGE campaign continues to grow and resonate with women, attracting a UK and global audience. To date the campaign has reached over 16 million women on Facebook with 7 million of them watching the campaign film; 7,000 taking part in a miscarriage survey and over 1,000 women bravely sharing their personal #misCOURAGE story. The campaign will now have a permanent legacy as the Tommy’s Book of #misCOURAGE on the Tommy’s website where women can share their story and help break the silence around miscarriage.
The Genesis Research Trust has donated £200,000 over two years towards the Tommy’s National Centre for Miscarriage Research Centre. Chaired by Professor Robert Winston, the Genesis Research Trust has funded the largest collection of UK scientists researching the causes and cures of women’s diseases. These include polycystic ovaries, infertility, stillbirth, miscarriage as well as premature birth, genetic disease, environmental influence before birth, stem-cell research and gynaecological cancers. Their scientists have an unrivalled reputation for making pioneering discoveries and advances which have become standardised medical practice in hospitals around the world, an example being the improvements in antenatal care and IVF. The trust has one of the largest doctoral and post-doctoral programmes in Europe. Uniquely, at least half of GRT’s senior scientists are female, and many go on to take up senior positions in universities all over the world. In recent years GRT scientists have made several major advances in detection and prevention of miscarriage. These include the first successful assessments of an embryo’s chromosomes; the discovery of a simple test which can determine when the womb lining does not develop correctly for pregnancy; and successful testing and treatment for women with ‘sticky blood’ which in some cases has taken live birth rates in women with recurrent miscarriage from 10% to 80%.
25 April 2016
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