Study explores the effects of maternal inflammation on fetal brain development

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Past research suggests that infections or inflammation in pregnant women can be linked with the development of neurodevelopmental disorders in their offspring. While this association is well-documented, the molecular and neural mechanisms underpinning it are still poorly understood.

Researchers at Harvard Medical School have recently carried out a study aimed at better understanding how maternal immune activation (MIA) can influence the development of the fetus and potentially facilitate the occurrence of neurodevelopmental disorders. Their paper, published in Nature Neuroscience, shows that MIA can activate a particular neural pathway that regulates the translation of messenger RNA (mRNA) molecules in the brain of pre-natal male mice, disrupting a process known as proteostasis.

The mRNA molecule is essentially a single-stranded molecule of RNA that puts DNA genetic instructions into action. Proteostasis (or protein homeostasis), on the other hand, is the process that regulates proteins within and around cells,

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