The new evidence that this process is possible represents a scientific advance and is a contribution to the development of treatments for women with premature pre-partum rupture of membranes during pregnancy, according to the authors of the research.

A few days after a simulated injury, by perforating a membrane donated for study, as if the damage had been caused during fetal surgery, researchers found that a type of cell called myofibroblasts, which play an important role in wound healing, as they move to the edges of the wound and to the site of failure. "This population of cells produced collagen and began pulling at the edges of the wound, contracting the tissues and repairing the wound," the Queen Mary University of London said in a statement.

The institution emphasises that currently there are no clinical approaches to repair or improve the healing of fetal membranes, and until now it was not certain whether small perforations in the membranes were able to heal themselves. The premature rupture of fetal membranes is one of the main causes of preterm birth, representing “about 40 percent of early infant mortality”, according to the research institution. Successful repair of fetal membranes can help reduce the risk of complications in childbirth, adds the same note.

"We've always thought that small diameter wounds created in human fetal membranes rarely heal on their own, but here we demonstrate that tissues have the potential to do so. We found that Cx43 [Connexin 43 protein] has different effects on cell populations found in membranes and promotes the transformation of mesenchymal amniotic cells into myofibroblasts, triggering their displacement, repair and healing of defects in fetal membranes," explained, the professor of Regenerative Medicine at Queen Mary University, Tina Chowdhury.

The integrity of the fetal membranes surrounding the baby in the uterus during pregnancy is vital for its development, but these membranes can be damaged as a result of infections, bleeding, fetal surgery or diagnostic tests such as amniocentesis, a procedure that involves make a hole with a needle in the fetal membrane sac. "Discovering that fetal membranes have this healing potential is a huge step towards developing treatments for women with premature pre-partum rupture of membranes.

Obstetrics and Fetal Maternal Medicine and study co-author, Anna David. The study also concluded that the excessive presence of the Cx43 protein affected the cells' ability to migrate to the failure site and close the wound. The international research team included, in addition to the two higher education institutions in England, scientists and clinicians from the Technological University of Nanyang, Singapore, and the University Hospitals of Leuven, Belgium.