During pregnancy in mice, the billions of bacteria and other microbes that live in a mother’s intestines regulate key metabolites, small molecules that are important for healthy fetal brain development, UCLA biologists report Sept. 23 in the journal Nature.
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While the maternal gut microbiota has been associated with abnormalities in the brain function and behavior of offspring — often in response to factors like infection, a high-fat diet or stress during pregnancy — scientists had not known until now whether it influenced brain development during critical prenatal periods and in the absence of such environmental challenges.
To test the impact the gut microbiata has on the metabolites and other biochemicals that circulate in maternal blood and nurture the rapidly developing fetal brain, the researchers raised mice that were treated with antibiotics to kill gut bacteria, as well as mice that were bred microbe-free in a laboratory.
“Depleting the maternal
New research helps explain why flu can lead to life-threatening complications during pregnancy, suggesting the virus does not stay in the lungs but spreads throughout the mother’s body.
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The pre-clinical study has overturned current scientific thinking on the reasons why flu infections affect pregnant women and their babies so severely.
The findings could also help researchers working to understand the fundamental biology of how COVID-19 spreads from the lungs into the body.
The research, in animal models, showed that during pregnancy flu spreads from the lungs through the blood vessels into the circulatory system, triggering a damaging hyperactive immune response.
Led by RMIT University in collaboration with researchers and clinicians from Ireland and Australia, the new study is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Lead author Dr Stella Liong said the research suggests the vascular system is at the heart of the potentially devastating complications