Administering opioids to pregnant mice alters behavior and gene expression in offspring

Administering opioids to pregnant mice alters behavior and gene expression in offspring
Correlation of behavioral results with gene expression in male mice. Credit: Martin et al., eNeuro 2021

Mice exposed to the opioid oxycodone before birth experience permanent changes in behavior and gene expression. The new research published in eNeuro highlights a need to develop safer types of painkillers for pregnant women.

Opioids like oxycodone are prescribed to to treat pain, but the drugs may affect the fetus, too. Opioids can pass through the placenta, binding to receptors in the fetal brain, which can lead to in newborn babies. The long-term consequences of prenatal opioid exposure haven't been fully studied, however.

To explore this, Martin et al. administered oxycodone to female mice every day for the two weeks prior to and throughout the duration of their pregnancy. The team administered a range of behavioral tests on the offspring during weaning and later in adulthood. The offspring exposed to oxycodone during gestation showed signs of impaired social behaviors and communication. They were also larger and less active than the control mice. The research team examined the of opioid receptors in the offspring. In the hippocampus, a region involved in learning and memory, one type of receptor increased in male mice while a different receptor decreased in .

These results reveal prenatal opioid exposure can have lifelong effects on offspring.


Explore further

Methadone research could help babies exposed to opioids in utero

More information: Maternal Oxycodone Treatment Results in Neurobehavioral Disruptions in Mice Offspring, eNeuro, DOI: 10.1523/ENEURO.0150-21.2021
Citation: Administering opioids to pregnant mice alters behavior and gene expression in offspring (2021, July 26) retrieved 19 September 2021 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-07-opioids-pregnant-mice-behavior-gene.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
 shares

Feedback to editors