Developing immunotherapy for prevention of spontaneous preterm birth

INSTITUTION: Department of Women and Children’s Health, St Thomas’ Hospital Campus, King’s College London, Peter Gorer Department of Immunobiology, School of Immunology and Microbial Sciences, Guy’s Hospital, King’s College London
RESEARCHERS: Professor Rachel Tribe, Dr Natalie Suff, Dr Deena L Gibbons

There is often no obvious reason for a preterm birth, suggesting that problems with the mother’s immune system may be involved.

In a second Borne and Action Medical Research co-funded project, awarded in 2021, Professor Rachel Tribe is aiming to develop a new treatment that can help prevent spontaneous preterm birth by modifying the mother’s immune and inflammatory responses during pregnancy.

about the research

During early pregnancy, the mother’s body must accept the baby in the womb. Achieving this involves suppressing her natural immune defences, and specialised cells in the womb lining, called decidual stromal cells (DSCs) are known to play an important role in this process.

The funding will enable the team to collaborate with researchers in Sweden who have successfully isolated human DSCs (hDSCs) from full-term placental tissue and shown they can suppress immune cell growth in the laboratory and the clinic.

“When babies are born prematurely without any obvious explanation, it may be that problems with the mother’s immune response and the presence of inflammation and/or infection are involved.”

– Professor Rachel Tribe


The project represents the first and necessary step towards developing a treatment strategy that could be used clinically in pregnancy to treat preterm birth and late miscarriage. If the approach is successful, it could lead to further work towards happier outcomes for many babies and their families in the future.

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