Study reveals how fever during pregnancy affects fetal brain development

BEIJING, Jan. 16 (Xinhua/APP):Chinese researchers reported that they have found how a protein named TRPM2 plays a key role in heat response, affecting fetal brain development during pregnancy.

High body temperature during pregnancy can cause neural tube defects (NTDs) in the fetus. NTDs are birth defects of the brain and spinal cord. The mechanism of the process remains unclear.

According to the new research published in the U.S. journal Science Advances, researchers from the Institute of Zoology under the Chinese Academy of Sciences found that when pregnant rats had high body temperatures, there were more neural stem cells in the cerebral cortex of fetal rats but less differentiated neurons. Meanwhile, TRPM2, a protein required for sensitivity to warmth, was activated.

In order to study the relationship between TRPM2 and the development of the fetal cerebral cortex under high temperatures, the researchers knocked down the expression of TRPM2 to study its function.

The results showed that the knockdown of TRPM2 at high temperatures could inhibit the proliferation of neural stem cells and the development of neurons, but the knockdown did not have such effects when pregnant rats experienced normal body temperatures.

The researchers said their study showed that maternal body temperature can regulate the development of fetal cerebral cortex, and identifying TRPM2’s role provides a new way to prevent abnormal fetal development caused by maternal high temperature.

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