Understanding the development of an embryo in terms of lipids
At the very first phase of our life – even before implantation into the lining of the womb – we are a ball of stem cells that goes on to form the foetus – they are pluripotent cells, as they can become any type of cell in the body. Research has already found that the amount of lipids (fatty substance) contained in this initial ball of cells affects the way in which it goes through restructuring as an essential process for all subsequent development, and hence the success or failure of pregnancy.
We are supporting a new research project led by Dr. Véronique Azuara, which seeks to explore how pluripotent stem cells utilise fatty ‘reserves’ to support the fitness and survival of the early embryo, as it implants into the womb lining, through the activation of critical developmental signals.
The processes that underpin early development and stem cell pluripotency are fundamental to human biology. If we could decrypt how these processes worked, this knowledge could advance our understanding and treatment of infertility and miscarriages. We could also harvest this knowledge to improve our use of stem cells in both science and medicine.
Understanding how a healthy placenta develops
Dr Wei Cui is leading a study into the role of a particular multi-chain protein, called mTORC2 (mTOR Complex 2), in building blood vessels. For a baby developing in the womb, this is important for a healthy cardiovascular system and placenta. This is of course very important for a successful pregnancy.
Understanding bacterial propagation with metatranscriptomics
High levels of “healthy” bacteria called Lactobacillus appear to protect against disease during early pregnancy. This is because they produce anti-microbial / anti-inflammatory compounds such as lactic acid. Our research has found that one particular species, Lactobacillus crispatus, is especially supportive of healthy pregnancy, thus promising to offer a useful biotherapeutic or “probiotic” treatment for women with at-risk pregnancies. We’re supporting a new study that will look at how bacteria’s genes affects their ability to multiply and dominate. The study will use a cutting-edge technique called metatranscriptomics and will focus on pregnant women treated with Lactobacillus crispatus, as part of a world-first trial (FLIP1).
Mental health intervention after miscarriage
Many women suffer huge distress after experiencing a miscarriage, with 1 in 3 displaying PTSD symptoms.
We’re supporting a project involving intervention with a smart device. Women who have suffered a miscarriage will record the frequency of unwanted, distressing and intrusive thoughts at the start, middle and end of the 13-week study.
Understanding Successful Embryo Implantation
Most pregnancies fail before they can be clinically verified, which is before the embryo implants into the lining of the womb, 7-9 days after fertilisation. Learning more about how this embryo develops and emits signals using hormones helps us understand why embryos are more likely to implant successfully as part of the IVF process. Genesis Research Trust is funding Tommy Mau’s research at Imperial College London into how lipids (fatty substances) control energy storage and produce signals during embryonic development. His studies have shown that lipid droplets can actively increase their size – increasing fat storage capacity – and develop the embryo’s tissues in readiness for implantation.
The relationship between the microbiome and miscarriage
The short video below explains how not only infection, but “good bacteria” affect the probablity of ectopic pregnancy and miscarriage.