A study released online in the journal Nature Neuroscience suggests that a loss of a placental hormone during gestation may be linked to an alteration of brain development, also producing distinct social changes.
Conducted by researchers at Columbia University Irving Medical Center, the study occurred in rodents, in which the participants that had a lack of a hormone called allopregnanolone (ALLO) led to altered brain development that would normally occur by the second half of pregnancy.
The social behavior changes observed in the participants resembled that of autism spectrum disorder, according to researchers.
“Compromised placental function or premature loss has been linked to diverse neurodevelopmental disorders,” the findings read. “Here we show that placenta allopregnanolone (ALLO), a progesterone-derived GABA-A receptor (GABAAR) modulator, reduction alters neurodevelopment in a sex-linked manner.”
“This study reveals a new role for a placental hormone in shaping brain regions and behaviors in a sex-linked manner. Placental hormone replacement might offer novel therapeutic opportunities to prevent later neurobehavioral disorders,” researchers concluded.
“The findings provide a new way to understand poor placental function. Subtle but important changes during pregnancy or after delivery may set in motion neurodevelopmental disorders that children experience later in life.”