A recent research presented at the Neuroscience 2019, Chicago showed that allopregnanolone, a hormone produced by placenta during pregnancy play a key role in normal fetal brain development. The study showed that a decrease or abrupt stop in the supply of the hormone was found to develop autism-like behaviours in experimental models.
The research team Children’s National Hospital presented the findings on October 20, 2019.
The study’s lead author, Dr. Claire-Marie Vacher said that the targeted loss of allopregnanolone (ALLO) in the womb lead to long-term stuctural variations in the cerebellum of the off-spring, which increased an risk of developing autism.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP), about 1 in 10 infants is born preterm, before 37 weeks gestation; and 1 in 59 children has autism spectrum disorder.
Inorder to investigate what happens when ALLO supplies are disrupted, the team created a preclinical transgenic model. The model had a gene deleted which was essential in ALLO synthesis.
Normally, the synthesis of ALLO rises in the second trimester of pregnancy, and levels peak as fetuses approach full term.
When production of ALLO in the placenta of these experimental models declined, offspring had permanent neurodevelopmental changes.
The most pronounced cerebellar abnormalities was observed in the brain’s white matter in the cerebellum.
“We found increased thickness of the myelin, a lipid-rich insulating layer that protects nerve fibers.” noted Dr. Claire-Marie Vacher.
Studying on the behavioral perspective, the male offsprings in which the ALLO supply was abruptly reduced exhibited an increased repetitive behavior and sociability deficits, which are two hallmarks of autism spectrum disorder, he said.
The team also found that providing a single ALLO injection during pregnancy was enough to prevent the cerebellar abnormalities and the abnormal social behaviors in experimental models.
The research team has announced about launching a new area of research area named “neuroplacentology”which is focused in better understanding of the role of placenta function on fetal and newborn brain development.