Several studies have revealed the effects that immune stimulation can have in pregnant women on the development of fetuses, including an increased risk of developing mental disorders in the child later in life, according to “Russia Today”.
However, the neural mechanisms underlying these effects remain largely unclear, so researchers at New York Medical School recently conducted a study looking at the effect that activation of microglia (a specialized group of cells that removes damaged or infected neurons) and on Fetal development of a specific class of neurons that regulate information processing, known as brown neurons.
Their findings indicate, which were published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, Indicates that active microglia can cause metabolic disturbances that negatively affect the development of brown neurons. Interestingly, these disorders can persist in individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia when the microglia stops functioning..
Sangmy Chung, a participant in the study, told the website Medical Xpress “While we now know that brown neurons are affected by the maternal immune activation, the mechanism by which they are affected is still not well understood,” he said. Inflammation during development on this vulnerable group of neurons“.
Chung and her colleagues generated brown neurons using pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), A technological tool that allows neuroscientists to reprogram cells extracted from human tissue samples.
Previous studies have found that people with schizophrenia have abnormal patterns in the functioning of brown neurons.
The researchers had hoped their study would enhance current understanding of the neurological mechanisms that may lead to the development of schizophrenia or other neuropsychiatric disorders. Thus the brown neurons used in their experiments were created from people without psychiatric disorders and from patients diagnosed with schizophrenia..
After creating these cells, which Chung and her colleagues co-cultivated with either or without active glial cells, they monitored the effects of these two actions on brown neurons produced by healthy people’s tissues and on those derived from schizophrenia..
Specifically, the researchers used a method called tissue culture insertion, which allowed the signals from the microglia to reach the brown neurons they created through a membrane that was inserted between them, which is a permeable but not allowing cells to pass through..
“We found that the metabolism of brown neurons was compromised under inflammatory conditions during development, which showed a long-term effect in pluripotent stem cells derived from schizophrenia but not cells of healthy subjects,” said Chung. Schizophrenia and environmental risk factors“.
The findings compiled by Chung and her colleagues could inform future studies looking at the neurological mechanisms linking prenatal immune activation to the risk of schizophrenia or other neuropsychiatric disorders..
Most importantly, it indicates that activation of microglia, the cells that protect the nervous system from disease and carry out immune responses, can cause metabolic disturbances in brown neurons..
Moreover, the researchers found that in brown neurons produced by the tissues of individuals without neuropsychiatric disorders, these metabolic deficiencies ceased to exist after removal of activated microglia, while they persisted in patients with schizophrenia..
Thus, their findings could help identify prenatal neurological processes that may interact with a person’s genetic tendency to have schizophrenia, increasing the risk of developing the disorder later in life..
“We are now planning to pursue more studies looking at the detailed mechanisms and pathways that are affected by the inflammatory environments surrounding brown neurons,” said Chung.“.
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