NOV 10, 2021 10:00 AM PST

Inflammation during pregnancy can affect normal brain development

WRITTEN BY: J. Bryce Ortiz

During pregnancy the growing embryo and fetus undergo remarkable and quick developmental. Around 5 weeks after conception, the embryo has developed the neural tube, which later becomes the baby’s spinal cord and brain. During these early developmental periods environmental factors can impact the fetuses’ growth trajectory. For example, lack of folic acid in early pregnancy can prevent closure or proper development of the neural tube which leads to severe birth defects. These findings have prompted further investigation into the environmental influences that can impact pregnancy and affect the developing fetus.

Many studies have identified maternal factors that impact the development of the brain, i.e. neurodevelopment, in the growing fetus. One example is air pollution, which can lead to premature birth and low birthweight and lead to neurodevelopmental delays. Interestingly, one study found that mothers who used air purifiers in their house during pregnancy were less likely to have a toddler with a developmental delay. 

Another factor that can impact brain development is maternal inflammation. Maternal inflammation is closely associated with neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorders. Maternal inflammation can occur from common illnesses such as the flu and in most other diseases including COVID19. However, the exact mechanisms by which maternal inflammation can lead to neurodevelopmental issues in the developing fetus is unclear. One recent study published in the journal Immunity identified one factor that may play a role in the aberrant neurodevelopment following maternal inflammation. 

Interleukin-6 is an important protein that is produced when there is damage to the body or during infection, especially during viral infections. In the current study, the researchers were building off previous studies that showed that elevations in maternal interleukin-6 led to abnormal social and repetitive behavior in the offspring, which are synonymous with behaviors in autism spectrum disorders. However, it was previously unclear why and how these behavioral abnormalities developed following maternal inflammation. As such, the researchers aimed to understand the underlying alterations in the brain that may lead to altered behavior in the offspring of mothers who were exposed to elevated interleukin-6. 

In this study, the researchers injected pregnant mouse moms with interleukin-6 and when they gave birth, they looked at the brains of the offspring. They found that the brains of the offspring of mothers with elevated interleukin-6 displayed enhanced excitatory signaling and overall brain hyperconnectivity. The authors state that the increased number of excitatory contacts and hyperconnectivity is a pathological hallmark of neurodevelopmental disorders in humans. Because there are currently no pharmacological tools for the prevention of neurodevelopmental disorders, this study provides insight into one possible pathway that can be targeted in drug development for the treatment and prevention of these disorders. 

 

Sources: Cleveland ClinicCDCMarch of DimesnatureImmunityfrontiers in microbiology;

About the Author
  • Science and medical writer | Researcher | Interested in the intersection between translational science, drug development, and policy
You May Also Like
NOV 03, 2021
Plants & Animals
A Samoan Plant May Reduce Inflammation as Well as Ibuprofen
NOV 03, 2021
A Samoan Plant May Reduce Inflammation as Well as Ibuprofen
To the people of Samoa, the medicinal qualities of a tree known as matalafi are well known. Now scientists are bringing ...
NOV 08, 2021
Coronavirus
Pfizer Claims Their New COVID-19 Pill Reduces Hospitalization Risk by 89%
NOV 08, 2021
Pfizer Claims Their New COVID-19 Pill Reduces Hospitalization Risk by 89%
Current treatments for COVID-19 have to be administered intravenously, so a pill that could treat patients would be huge ...
NOV 12, 2021
Cannabis Sciences
Battle of the Cannabinoids: Which Cannabis Compound Could Most Effectively Treat IBD?
NOV 12, 2021
Battle of the Cannabinoids: Which Cannabis Compound Could Most Effectively Treat IBD?
With 3 million people from the U.S. reporting clinical cases in 2015 – accompanied by an increased projected incid ...
NOV 19, 2021
Cannabis Sciences
Topical CBD Reverses UV-Induced Changes in Skin
NOV 19, 2021
Topical CBD Reverses UV-Induced Changes in Skin
Results from a new study published in Nature’s Scientific Reports suggest that topical application of cannabidiol ...
DEC 06, 2021
Microbiology
Sino Biological Launched Omicron Variant Research Reagents
DEC 06, 2021
Sino Biological Launched Omicron Variant Research Reagents
Sino Biological Newly Launched A Panel of Research Reagents for SARS-CoV-2 Omicron Variant (B.1.1.529) Beijing, China, D ...
DEC 08, 2021
Drug Discovery & Development
Nighttime eating and circadian misalignment leads to glucose intolerance
DEC 08, 2021
Nighttime eating and circadian misalignment leads to glucose intolerance
It might be best to think twice before reaching for that midnight snack. A recent research report published in ...
Loading Comments...