A pill used to treat diabetes could be “repurposed” to prevent recurrent miscarriage, doctors revealed today.
Trials found women who had suffered multiple lost pregnancies benefited from being given sitagliptin, a daily tablet for people with type-2 diabetes.
The drug increases the number of stem cells in the lining of the womb, thereby improving its ability to support pregnancy.
Researchers now want to hold larger trials to assess whether the drug is able to improve the overall chances of having a baby.
Miscarriage occurs in up to one in four pregnancies and is most commonly caused by genetic defects in the embryo.
But in women who suffer multiple miscarriages, the womb is more likely to be the cause. Having a miscarriage harms the womb, meaning that each occurrence increases the risk of a subsequent miscarriage.
Women given sitagliptin increased the stem cells count in the womb by an average of 68 per cent and decreased the number of “stressed” cells by half.
Of the 16 participants given the drug, eight went on to give birth and three suffered miscarriage.
Of the 17 women given a placebo, there were seven births and six miscarriages. The participants had suffered an average of five previous miscarriages.
Professor Jan Brosens, of University of Warwick medical school, told the Standard: “The big surprise was it worked. Those who received treatment did better than those on a placebo.”
The research, in the journal EBioMedicine, was funded by Tommy’s National Miscarriage Research Centre.
Professor Brosens, a consultant at University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust, said: “There are currently very few effective treatments for miscarriage and this is the first that aims at normalising the womb before pregnancy.
“Although miscarriages can be caused by genetic errors in the embryo, an abnormal womb lining causes the loss of chromosomal normal pregnancies.
“We hope this treatment will prevent such losses and reduce the physical and psychological burden of recurrent miscarriage.”
Jane Brewin, chief executive of Tommy’s, said: “For too long it has often been said that miscarriage is not preventable and parents have been left with little hope given the paucity of treatment options available.
“This research shows great promise for an effective treatment which will reduce miscarriage.”
Professor Siobhan Quenby, from Warwick clinical trials unit, said: “We have improved the environment that an embryo develops in and in doing so we hope to improve the chances of a successful pregnancy.”
Professor Andrew Shennan, of Guy’s and St Thomas’s NHS Trust and King’s College London, said: “This is an exciting finding that could be promising for those who suffer many miscarriages.”