The research found that monitoring levels of the protein, called Syncytin-1, which boosts the growth of the placenta and also helps embryos implant in the womb, could give doctors an early indication about whether an embryo will successfully implant.
This discovery paves the way for improved treatments for miscarriage and the potentially fatal condition pre-eclampsia.
Lead author Harry Moore said that eventually, they may be able to develop blood tests based on the results to identify pregnancies that might be at risk and also develop appropriate therapies.
He said that there is a lot on the news about the Zika virus infection at the moment and its devastating effects on foetal development but not all viral infections are necessarily as disastrous. Amazingly the Syncytin-1 gene is the result of a viral infection of our primate ancestors 25 million years ago.
The study is published in the journal Human Reproduction.