Exposure to stress before birth can worsen the clinical symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS) during adulthood, a study in a mouse model of MS suggested.
Investigators also found that prenatal stress can change the levels of a protein critical for neurological development, called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which plays a key role in the maturation of cells that generate myelin — the fatty coating surrounding nerve fibers that is damaged in people with MS.
The study, “Prenatal Stress Impairs Spinal Cord Oligodendrocyte Maturation via BDNF Signaling in the Experimental Autoimmune Encephalomyelitis Model of Multiple Sclerosis,” was published in the journal Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology.
Stress is one of the major environmental factors that have been linked to an increased risk of disease worsening in multiple neurological and psychiatric diseases, such as MS.
Stress before birth is also known to affect brain development in newborns, potentially enhancing susceptibility to certain diseases and physical impairments during adulthood via several altered biological mechanisms.
Particularly, in animal models and humans, prenatal stress has been associated with changes in BDNF levels, a protein that is critical for neurological development and has been linked to several neurodegenerative and psychiatric disorders.
Mice with experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), a disease that mimics MS in humans, are a well-established animal model of MS often used to study the long-term effects of the condition and to test the efficacy and safety of investigational therapies.
How prenatal stress influences this EAE model, and its impact on the development of MS-like symptoms into adulthood, may provide insight into the effects of exposure to stress before birth in humans to later on disease onset.
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