Researchers find neurological conditions could begin in the womb

May 19, 2017, University of Queensland
Researchers find neurological conditions could begin in the womb
Red: Tight junction marker (Zo-1) demonstrating the apical surface. Green: Cytoskeleton marker (TUBB-3) showing the radial structure of the rosettes. Blue: Nucleus of cells. Credit: DAPI

Researchers say a protein usually associated with the immune system could play a role in the development of neurological conditions such as epilepsy and schizophrenia.

University of Queensland lecturer and medical alumnus Dr Liam Coulthard led the study into how is affected by altering the activity of the complement system – which controls innate or – during pregnancy.

"Our research in mouse models has shown neural defects can result when this system is functioning inappropriately in utero," Dr Coulthard said.

"We blocked a key complement component, called C5a, for three days during pregnancy, and this resulted in behavioural abnormalities in the offspring.

"Our research demonstrates this complement factor is essential for the proper development of the brain and has a broader role in addition to its function in the immune system."

The research was part of Dr Coulthard's thesis for his PhD, supervised by Associate Professor Trent Woodruff, who heads the Neuroinflammation Laboratory at the UQ School of Biomedical Sciences.

Dr Woodruff's lab works on potent inflammatory molecules in the immune system, including C5a.

The study showed the protein occurs in significant amounts in brain regions during development in utero, prior to the immune system being developed.

Credit: University of Queensland

This complement system was also activated in a human model of brain development using induced , in work done in collaboration with Professor Ernst Wolvetang from UQ's Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology.

C5a has been linked to inflammation pathways in neurodegenerative conditions such as , and the lab is working towards the development of new drugs to block disease progression.

"Our findings confirm that drugs inhibiting this system could pose a risk in pregnancy and could prompt recommendations they not be given to women of child-bearing age," Dr Coulthard said.

"Any of drugs for this target to treat pregnancy-related inflammatory diseases such as preeclampsia should be approached with caution."

Dr Coulthard is a Resident Medical Officer at the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital.

The research is published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

Explore further: Body's early immune response aids cancer growth

More information: Liam G. Coulthard et al. Complement C5aR1 Signaling Promotes Polarization and Proliferation of Embryonic Neural Progenitor Cells through PKCζ., The Journal of Neuroscience (2017). DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0525-17.2017

Related Stories

Body's early immune response aids cancer growth

June 14, 2016
Queensland researchers have discovered that the first-stage response of the immune system can contribute to melanoma, colon and breast cancer growth, rather than helping the body to fight it.

Researchers find molecular trigger for brain inflammation

April 27, 2017
Brain inflammation is a key component of multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, ALS, and most other major neurodegenerative diseases. How inflammation starts, how it's sustained, and how it contributes to these diseases ...

Protein proves influential to healthy immune system

March 13, 2017
Researchers have discovered that the protein Myb plays a vital role in keeping our immune system healthy, and preventing the development of immune and inflammatory diseases.

Unlocking secrets of the immune system could help combat colitis

June 16, 2016
Researchers have unlocked secrets of our ancient immune system, a major scientific advance which could help scientists and clinicians in the global fight against disease.

Steroid treatment for IVF problems may do more harm than good

September 7, 2016
Researchers at the University of Adelaide are urging doctors and patients to refrain from using a specific steroid treatment to treat infertility in women unless clinically indicated, because of its links to miscarriage, ...

Complement immune system involved in rare epilepsy

March 29, 2016
The complement system, which forms part of our immune system, is involved in a special form of epilepsy. This is the conclusion of a recently published single-case study. The study, carried out as part of a project sponsored ...

Recommended for you

Overlooked signal in MRI scans reflects amount, kind of brain cells

September 24, 2018
An MRI scan often generates an ocean of data, most of which is never used. When overlooked data is analyzed using a new technique developed at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, they surprisingly reveal ...

Even mild physical activity immediately improves memory function, study finds

September 24, 2018
People who include a little yoga or tai chi in their day may be more likely to remember where they put their keys. Researchers at the University of California, Irvine and Japan's University of Tsukuba found that even very ...

Thousands of unknown DNA changes in the developing brain revealed by machine learning

September 24, 2018
Unlike most cells in the rest of our body, the DNA (the genome) in each of our brain cells is not the same: it varies from cell to cell, caused by somatic changes. This could explain many mysteries—from the cause of Alzheimer's ...

Implant helps paralysed man walk again

September 24, 2018
Five years after he was paralysed in a snowmobile accident, a man in the US has learned to walk again aided by an electrical implant, in a potential breakthrough for spinal injury sufferers.

Common painkiller not effective for chronic pain after traumatic nerve injury

September 24, 2018
A new study out today in the Journal of Neurology finds that pregabalin is not effective in controlling the chronic pain that sometimes develops following traumatic nerve injury. The results of the international study, which ...

Study of protein 'trafficker' provides insight into autism and other brain disorders

September 22, 2018
In the brain, as in business, connections are everything. To maintain cellular associates, the outer surface of a neuron, its membrane, must express particular proteins—proverbial hands that reach out and greet nearby cells. ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.