Dr. Margot Mayer-Pröschel, Associate Professor in the Department of Biomedical Genetics, with a secondary appointment in the Department of Neuroscience, has received a $2 million, five-year grant to study the impact of gestational iron deficiency (GID) on the development of the brain.
Iron deficiency is still the most prevalent nutritional deficiency in the world. Optimal maternal iron stores during pregnancy are essential for providing adequate iron to the fetal brain. However, many women have insufficient iron reserves to optimally supply the fetus. This is a potentially serious problem as children born to gestational iron deficient (GID) mothers have a higher probability of developing autism, attention deficient syndrome and other cognitive impairments.
A major step towards understanding GID, and potentially preventing multiple types of impairment in children, is to conduct controlled mechanistic and cellular studies in animal models where variable factors can be controlled. Using this approach, the Mayer-Pröschel lab found that low iron supply during pregnancy can cause defects in fetal brain development resulting in a disability to generate appropriate reservoirs of cells that are needed later in life to establish balanced brain activity. This defect persists even if iron supplements are started at birth. This work using a mouse model of GID will provide a detailed understanding of the detrimental effects on child development and may point towards new strategies by which the defects can be normalized or prevented.
The grant, titled Gestational Iron Deficiency disrupts neural patterning in the embryo is funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD), part of National Institutes of Health.