Louise Brown, the world’s first ‘test tube’ baby, was born in 1978 as a result of pioneering work carried out by a British research team led by Patrick Steptoe (a clinician) and Robert Edwards (a scientist). Since then, infertility treatments have undergone an immense transformation and have become a highly specialized field collectively known as assisted reproductive technology (ART).
Worldwide, approximately one million ART treatments are now performed each year and over five million ART babies have been born. Despite these advances it is estimated that 1 in 7 couples will experience reproductive failure.
Another complication of pregnancy is miscarriage. One in seven recognized pregnancies end in miscarriage during the first trimester and 1-2% fail between 13 and 24 weeks gestation. Recurrent Pregnancy Loss (RPL, 3 or more losses) is a particularly distressing disorder that affects between 1 and 2% of couples trying for a baby.
Our investigations have shown that to have a successful pregnancy, the lining of the womb must be ‘receptive’ to an implanting embryo, but also ‘selective’. In women suffering from RPL, the lining of the womb appears disproportionately receptive but insufficiently ‘selective’, meaning patients report, that they easily become pregnant but then miscarry.
Our work focuses on exploring the womb lining and understanding how endometrial cells affect the chances of a woman becoming pregnant. We routinely culture endometrial cells from individual patients, study these cells and conduct experiments. Our work aims to develop tests to predict the likelihood of problems in a pregnancy before a woman becomes pregnant and develop treatments to help those affected