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Scientists study how maternal SARS-CoV-2 infection during pregnancy affects children’s brain development

Scientists study how maternal SARS-CoV-2 infection during pregnancy affects children’s brain development
Scientists study how maternal SARS-CoV-2 infection during pregnancy affects children’s brain development


Scientists, led by the Lieber Institute for Brain Development, found that maternal SARS-CoV-2 infection during pregnancy correlates with placental biology, including risk for neurodevelopmental disorders such as schizophrenia and autism. We are studying how it affects the developmental trajectory of children’s brains. This work was made possible by her $3 million grant for five years from the Eunice-Kenedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, part of the National Institutes of Health.

The project, announced today, is the result of a collaboration between the Lieber Institute for Brain Development at the Johns Hopkins Medical Campus in Baltimore, Children’s National Hospital in Washington, DC, and the Inova Health System’s Women’s Health Integrative Research Center in Virginia. rice field.

This group aims to get a clearer picture of how maternal SARS-CoV-2 infection during pregnancy affects neurodevelopment in the uterus, with effects early in the child’s life. Researchers will understand how infection interacts with other factors related to brain development, such as genomic risk for neurodevelopmental disorders, maternal stress, and social determinants of health. The team will study whether the relationship between maternal SARS-CoV-2 infection and offspring brain development is mediated by changes in placental biology and activation of the maternal immune system. They will also assess the impact of SARS-CoV-2 between female and male children and differences in the offspring of vaccinated and non-vaccinated mothers.

We know that what happens in the womb is important during the early stages of development, especially for the brain. We also know that if a pregnant woman becomes infected with the virus, her offspring may be at an increased risk of brain development disorders. Exposure to SARS-CoV-2 in utero can also affect the developing brain, with potential consequences later in life in some people born during the pandemic. I think it is possible.

Gianluca Ursini, MD, Ph.D., Project Principal Investigator and Researcher at the Lieber Institute for Brain Development

The researchers hope to translate their findings into clinical intervention as soon as possible, Dr. Ursini said.

“This study, made possible by NIH’s generous and visionary funding, will help us by informing preventive and therapeutic interventions and guidelines for women and their infants exposed to SARS-CoV-2. We expect to benefit this vulnerable population in a timely manner,” explained Dr Ursini. “The results of this study may help us understand the mechanisms by which other infectious and non-infectious exposures during pregnancy threaten the developing brain.”

Preliminary data indicate that pregnant women with symptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection are more likely to have preterm births, placental abnormalities, pre-eclampsia and fetal growth restriction, among other prenatal and perinatal complications. is showing. All of these complications have been shown to increase a child’s risk of developing neurodevelopmental disorders later in life.

The study involved 500 mother-baby pairs in northern Virginia, half of whom had symptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection, half of whom were asymptomatic, and 400 healthy controls. person is also included. Dr. Larry Maxwell, President of Inova Women’s Service Line and Thomas Conrads, Director of Women’s Health Research for Inova Women’s Service Line, at various intervals before and during the pandemic, collected and tested biological samples from patients. Adjust your analysis. Pandemic.

In addition, Inova’s team used laser microdissection technology to collect specific cells from the placenta for protein analysis, as well as for use by researchers at the Lieber Institute for Brain Development for genomic testing and RNA sequencing. or Combining genetic and proteomics data, we assess the impact of SARS-CoV-2 infection on the placenta of infected mothers compared to uninfected pregnant women.

Sarah Malkey, M.D., an antenatal neonatal neurologist at Children’s National Hospital, has led neurodevelopmental assessments of infants born to mothers infected with SARS-CoV-2 during pregnancy and who were cared for at the hospital. understanding the long-term neurological effects of offspring from Inova. Researchers will assess the child’s neurodevelopment both at 24 months of age and at her 36 months. The study is based on her Dr. Mulkey’s longitudinal neurodevelopmental evaluation of children exposed to Zika virus in utero.

“What we have learned is that even if babies do not have Zika virus-related birth defects, there are differences in early child development compared to children not exposed to Zika virus. “There’s still a lot we don’t know about SARS-CoV-2,” Dr. Malkey said. , we can finally find a way to prevent harmful consequences.”

Scientists aim to assess factors that may mediate or moderate the relationship between maternal infection and neurodevelopmental outcomes in children. These factors include components of the maternal immune system. , placental alterations, gene and protein alterations, and fetal sex. They also consider the impact of social determinants of health, such as how the conditions where people live, learn, work and play contribute to health risks and outcomes.

Notably, the Inova Health System research group is racially and ethnically diverse, reflecting vulnerable populations heavily impacted by the pandemic and health disparities. By identifying the mechanisms of neurodevelopmental complications from her SARS-CoV-2 infection in the mother, scientists hope to discover ways to limit or ameliorate the adverse effects.

Dr. Ursini, project principal investigator at the Lieber Institute for Brain Development, has focused his research on investigating the role of the early living environment in influencing the pathophysiology of neurodevelopmental disorders. His study examined placental biology, its relationship to genomic risk for schizophrenia, and how childhood complications interact with the genome to increase its risk.

Daniel Weinberger, M.D., Director and CEO of the Lieber Institute for Brain Development and researcher on the grant, said: .

“The placenta is a fetal organ, not a maternal organ,” says Dr. Weinberger. “It is a rich source of information about the human genome and fetal environment at birth, which has a direct impact on the growth and health of the newborn. These interactions are thought to underlie many developmental disorders such as schizophrenia.

NIH Program Director Sai Maji, Ph.D., addresses specific factors or mechanisms involved in brain development after SARS-CoV-2 infection during pregnancy and develops biomarkers that enable prognosis of maternal health and health status. I endorse this award that leads to a specific. be descendants.




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