June 22, 2024
Microglia Cells

Microglia Cells in the Developing Brain of Pregnant Mice Detect Maternal Immune Response, Altering Gene Regulation

Pregnancy is a critical period for the development of a fetus, and any disruption during this time can have long-term consequences for the offspring. While the risk of a serious infection during pregnancy is a concern for parents, recent research suggests that the immune response to such infections could also impact brain development in the unborn child.

A team of scientists from Harvard University in Cambridge, U.S., has uncovered new insights into how the maternal immune response influences brain development in embryos. Their study, published in the journal Development, reveals that microglia cells in the developing brain of pregnant mice detect the maternal immune response, leading to persistent changes in gene regulation.

Neurological conditions such as schizophrenia and autism spectrum disorders have been linked to fetal exposure to infectious agents. Previous research has shown that fighting infection while pregnant can affect the growth of the offspring in the uterus, even if the embryos themselves remain uninfected. However, the mechanisms behind how embryos recognize their parent’s immune response and the consequences for their development were unclear.

To address this question, the researchers at Harvard University led by Professor Paola Arlotta used a compound that mimics a virus to stimulate an immune response in pregnant mice without causing an actual infection. They then analyzed the response of cells in the embryonic brain by examining which genes were activated or deactivated. The findings revealed that Microglia Cells, which are responsible for maintaining brain health and development, can detect the maternal immune response.

These results provide valuable information on how the maternal immune response might influence brain development in embryos and could help researchers understand the origins of neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism. Further studies are needed to confirm these findings in humans and explore the potential implications for preventing or mitigating the effects of maternal immune responses on fetal brain development.

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1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research.
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