Washington: If a mother is exposed to stress during pregnancy, her placenta translates that experience to her fetus by altering levels of a protein that affects the developing brains of male and female offspring differently, according to a new study.These findings suggest one way in which maternal-stress exposure may be linked to neurodevelopmental diseases such as autism and schizophrenia, which affect males more frequently or more severely than females.The study was conducted by a research group from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine."Most everything experienced by a woman during a pregnancy has to interact with the placenta in order to transmit to the fetus. Now we have a marker that appears to signal to the fetus that its mother has experienced stress," said Tracy L. Bale, senior author on the paper and an associate professor in the Department of Animal Biology at Penn Vet. The study builds on previous work by Bale and her colleagues, which found that female mice exposed to stress during pregnancy gave birth to males who had heightened reactions to stress. Further research showed that the effect extended to the second generation: The sons of those male mice also had abnormal stress reactions.
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