How are psychiatric disorders related to infections during pregnancy? - The360 Healthy

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  • Thursday, November 28, 2019

    How are psychiatric disorders related to infections during pregnancy?

    How are psychiatric disorders related to infections during pregnancy?

    While studies have already shown that serious infections during pregnancy can promote various psychiatric disorders in the unborn child, researchers at the University of Copenhagen have specifically shown in the mouse how infections affect neuronal development. of the fetus and the importance of when it occurs. 


    The health of the mother is very important for the development of the fetal brain during pregnancy. Many factors play a key role, including nutrition, stress, hormonal balance, and the immune system. It has already been observed in humans and animals that serious infections in pregnant women are a risk factor for the child to develop psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia and autism spectrum disorders later in life. In a study published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, researchers from the University of Copenhagen showed, in mice, the mechanism involved.

    They claim that infections in the mother during pregnancy can alter the development of the child's stem cells and precursors of neuronal cells. "The connection has already been made in animal studies and clinical observation studies. However, this is the first time we show how infections during pregnancy affect brain development and can lead to cognitive impairment. Although many factors have been assumed or indicated, it is important to show the stages of neuronal development actually affected, "says Professor Konstantin Khodosevich, one of the authors of the study.

    A more or less important impact depending on the stage of pregnancy

    The researchers studied the development of neurons in several pregnant female mice and found that a strong immune response caused by an infection had an effect on stem cells and precursor cells to neuronal cells in the fetus. As a consequence a profound disruption of the development of their brain. More specifically, it is the "cortical GABAergic" interneurons, the key neuron class that provides inhibition in the brain, that have been altered which has caused multiple "impacts" throughout the fetal neuronal development process, from the birth of neurons to their maturity.

    In addition, the researchers also concluded that the newly born mice exhibited symptoms similar to those of human psychiatric disorders, including reduced inhibition, impaired social interaction, and cognitive decline. "The study in humans poses technological and ethical problems because of the vulnerability of pregnant women. This is why we study the functioning of mechanisms in mice. Psychiatric disorders are very complex and for some, we still do not know how they present themselves. We really want to contribute to the scientific understanding of these diseases, "adds the researcher.

    The other discovery of the experiment is the fact that infection at different periods of pregnancy is a significant factor. Thus, depending on the time of infection, different precursor cells and, consequently, different neurons were affected. This means that the moment the infection occurs is very important and can lead to variable results depending on the stage of development of the affected brain. "This can potentially underlie the complexity of psychiatric disorders," say the researchers who wish to deepen their knowledge on the molecular mechanisms behind this degradation of interneuron development.

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