The impact of maternal inflammation and maternal stress in the regulation of neurodevelopment and physiological function

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Crampton, Seán
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University College Cork
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The mechanisms governing fetal development follow a tightly regulated pattern of progression such that interference at any one particular stage is likely to have consequences for all other stages of development in the physiological system that has been affected thereafter. These disturbances can take the form of many different events but two of the most common and widely implicated in causing detrimental effects to the developing fetus are maternal immune activation (MIA) and maternal stress. MIA has been shown to cause an increase in circulating proinflammatory cytokines in both the maternal and fetal circulation. This increase in proinflammatory mediators in the fetus is thought to occur by fetal production rather than through exchange between the maternal-fetal interface. In the case of maternal stress it is increased levels of stress related hormones such as cortisol/corticosterone which is thought to elicit the detrimental effects on fetal development. In the case of both maternal infection and stress the timing and nature of the insult generally dictates the severity and type of effects seen in affected offspring. We investigated the effect of a proinflammatory environment on neural precursor cells of which exposure resulted in a significant decrease in the normal rate of proliferation of NPCs in culture but did not have any effect on cell survival. These effects were seen to be age dependent. Using a restraint stress model we investigated the effects of prenatal stress on the development of a number of different physiological systems in the same cohort of animals. PNS animals exhibited a number of aberrant changes in cardiovascular function with altered responses to stress and hypertension, modifications in respiratory responses to hypercapnic and hypoxic challenges and discrepancies in gastrointestinal innervation. Taken together these findings suggest that both maternal infection and maternal stress are detrimental to the normal development of the fetus.
Neuroscience , Prenatal stress , Maternal infection
Crampton, S. 2014. The impact of maternal inflammation and maternal stress in the regulation of neurodevelopment and physiological function. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.