The discovery of a protein involved in human placental development could also potentially help embryos embed strongly in the womb. A group of scientists found a protein that could possibly prevent miscarriages.

A team of scientists from the University of Sheffield found that prior to the embryo's implantation in the womb, the protein Syncytin-1 is initially secreted onto the developing embryo's surface.

This suggested that the protein plays a part in the placental formation as well as in helping embryos stick properly into the womb.

A deeper understanding of how human embryo first develops is important, as it can enhance the existing treatments of many pregnancy complications, including recurring miscarriages and pre-eclampsia.

"Eventually we may be able to develop blood tests based on our results to identify pregnancies that might be at risk," said study's lead author Professor Harry Moore, the University's Centre for Stem Cell Biology co-director, adding that the research can also help in the development of new therapies.

The Syncytin-1 gene is actually the byproduct of our ancestors' viral infection approximately 25 million years ago. The virus' DNA entered our ancestors' genome, and heredity took its course.

"The gene involved in the fusion of the virus with cells for infection was co-opted and became Syncytin-1," added Moore.

While the scientific community knows more about animals' initial embryo development, this is a branch of science where animals and humans largely differ.

The authors added that prior to this research, they didn't know that Syncytin-1 plays a much earlier role in the embryo development. The new study was published in the Human Reproduction journal on May 12.

The research team is pushing forward to analyze if the amount of Syncytin-1 secretion prior to the embryo implantation plays a role in the pregnancy results of women who are undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF).

According to Tommy's, a London-based charity funding research group, one in six pregnancies results in a miscarriage among women who are aware of their conditions.

As a whole, the total risk of having a miscarriage under 12 weeks is about one in five women. Among the pregnant women with a body mass index of more than 30, the total risk is one to four.

The discovery of the protein can help scientists and doctors improve on current therapies to help women suffering from repetitive miscarriages.

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