Pre-Eclampsia and the Developing Brain


  • Aaron Barron University College Cork



Pre-eclampsia, Autism spectrum disorder, Neurodevelopment, Placenta


Pre-eclampsia is a very common and potentially fatal pregnancy complication faced by millions of pregnant mothers worldwide every year. As well as affecting the mother, though, the disorder has been shown to have a harmful effect on the infant, including a negative influece on foetal brain development. Children born to a pregnancy affected by pre-eclampsia have a higher risk of neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorder, but, truthfully, we don't know why. This article describes the link between pre-eclampsia and foetal neurodevelopment - what we know and what we don't, and how our research is trying to uncover the mechanisms of the relationship between the two. Essentially, we are taking three approaches to this research question: growing neuron-like cells in the lab and modelling pre-eclampsia's effects on them; growing placental cells and stressing them in a way that mimics the placental pathology of pre-eclampsia; and analysing a large dataset from Finland which includes data on neurodevelopment from brain scans. Overall, these three strategies, little by little, are increasing our understanding of the elusive relationship between these two important disorders.