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Maternal Stress Impacts the Developing Offspring

June 28, 2017

Maternal Stress Impacts the Developing Offspring

Released: June 28, 2017

Columbus, Ohio -

By studying maternal stress in pregnant mice, researchers have seen indications that changes in the microbiome during pregnancy contribute to anxiety and cognitive problems in female offspring.

In a study conducted at The Ohio State University, maternal bacteria populations changed when mice were exposed to stress during pregnancy. Mice born from stressed mothers were colonized with different bacterial populations. These microbial changes were associated with alterations in brain biology. The study appeared in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity.

Tamar Gur, MD, PhD
When examining the bacterial DNA, there were different bacterial populations present post-stress exposure, said Tamar Gur, MD, PhD, the lead researcher and assistant professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health, Neuroscience, and Obstetrics and Gynecology at Ohio State.

Female offspring were generally more anxious in adulthood and showed cognitive changes.

"This is what we generally see in humans who develop psychological disorders, as well. Women are more likely to have anxiety disorders," noted Gur.

With funding from the Center for Clinical and Translational Science (CCTS) at Ohio State, Gur presented the study from her KL2 grant in San Diego at Neuroscience 2016, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience. Other researchers who worked on the study were Michael Baily, PhD, Lena Shay, Sydney Fisher, Aditi Vadodkar and Vanessa Varaljay.

"The CCTS was incredibly useful in providing me with workshops and clinical data that helped progress my career via excellent mentorship and collaboration effort between Nationwide Children's Hospital and The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. The discoveries and preliminary data were made possible with the KL2 funding I received, showing that the microbiome plays a role in mother and offspring," said Gur.

This discovery led Gur to receive a K08 grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). This funding will be used to look further into how the placenta changes following stress in mice. Gur is examining how changes in the microbiome contribute to behavioral changes in offspring, specifically through impacting the intrauterine environment.

“We hope to contribute to the understanding of how prenatal stress impacts the developing individual, and one day offer new treatments to improve wellness in mothers and their children,” concluded Gur.

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The Ohio State University Center for Clinical and Translational Science (CCTS) is funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) program (UL1TR001070, KL2TR001068, TL1TR001069) The CTSA program is led by the NIH’s National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS).

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