In a new study, researchers found that a drug designed to tackle diabetes could also be repurposed as the first treatment to prevent miscarriage by targeting the lining of the womb itself.
The treatment works by increasing the amount of stem cells in the lining of the womb, improving conditions in the womb to support pregnancy.
The research was led by the University of Warwick.
Recurrent miscarriage is defined as the loss of two or more consecutive pregnancies, with additional miscarriages decreasing the likelihood of a successful pregnancy.
Previous research by the Warwick team revealed that a lack of stem cells in the womb lining is causing thousands of women to suffer from recurrent miscarriages.
The team also demonstrated that stem cells protect specialized cells, called decidual cells, from excessive stress and inflammation.
Decidual cells surround the implanting embryo and excessive stress can cause the breakdown of the womb lining in pregnancy.
A new class of diabetes drugs called gliptins targets an enzyme involved in the recruitment of circulating stem cells to the womb.
In the study, the researchers tested whether inhibiting this enzyme, called DPP4, using a particular drug, sitagliptin, would improve conditions in the womb for pregnancy.
Thirty-eight women aged 18 to 42 who had experienced a large number of recurrent miscarriages (average five) were given either an oral course of sitagliptin or a placebo for three menstrual cycles.
The team found an average increase in stem cell count of 68% in those women who took the full course of sitagliptin.
This compares to no significant increase in those in the control group receiving an identical placebo pill.
They also saw a 50% decrease in the number of ‘stressed’ cells present in the lining of the womb. There were minimal side effects for the participants.
The researchers now hope to take the treatment to clinical trial and, if successful, it would be the first targeted specifically at the lining of the womb to prevent miscarriage.
The study is published in the journal EBioMedicine.
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