Vitamin D supplementation prevents autism traits being passed from mother to offspring: Mouse study

By Gary Scattergood

- Last updated on GMT

The study investigated if vitamin D could block autism-related behaviours. ©iStock
The study investigated if vitamin D could block autism-related behaviours. ©iStock

Related tags Pregnancy

Giving vitamin D to pregnant mice prevented autism traits being passed on to their offspring, researchers in Australia have revealed.

Academics at the University of Queensland said the findings provided further evidence of the crucial role vitamin D plays in brain development.

Lead researcher Professor Darryl Eyles said: “Our study used the most widely accepted developmental model of autism in which affected mice behave abnormally and show deficits in social interaction, basic learning and stereotyped behaviours,

“We found that pregnant females treated with active vitamin D in the equivalent of the first trimester of pregnancy produced offspring that did not develop these deficits.”

The researchers pointed out that 1,25OHD, as the active vitamin D hormone, cannot be used in pregnancy due to its potential hypercalcaemic effects on the developing foetus.

“However, our findings suggest that future studies with the safe-to-use dietary form of vitamin D, cholecalciferol, are warranted.”​ they added.

Wring in the journal Molecular Austism, ​they stated: “If dietary supplementation with cholecalciferol was shown to be successful in the prevention of MIA-induced behavioural abnormalities relevant to ASD (and related neurodevelopmental disorders), then this may open new avenues for the establishment of novel therapeutic public health preventative interventions in a similar manner to the use of folate to prevent spina bifida.”

Anti-inflammatory mechanism

The present study investigated if the co-administration of vitamin D could block MIA-induced autism-related behaviours being passed from mother to offspring.

They examined social interaction, stereotyped behaviour, emotional learning and memory, and innate anxiety-like behaviour in juveniles and the levels of the pro-inflammatory cytokines in maternal plasma and foetal brains.

“Importantly, our study reveals that prenatal administration of 1,25OHD abolishes all these behavioural deficits,”​ they added.

“However, prenatal administration of vitamin D had no effect on pro-inflammatory cytokine levels in dams or in foetal brains suggesting the anti-inflammatory actions of vitamin D are not the critical mechanism for its preventive actions in this animal model.”

Dr Wei Luan, a postdoctoral researcher involved in the study, said recent funding would now allow them to determine how much cholecalciferol – the supplement form that is safe for pregnant women – is needed to achieve the same levels of active hormonal vitamin D in the bloodstream.

“This new information will allow us to further investigate the ideal dose and timing of vitamin D supplementation for pregnant women,”​ he added.

Source:Molecular Autism

DOI: 10.1186/s13229-017-0125-0

“Vitamin D treatment during pregnancy prevents autism-related phenotypes in a mouse model of maternal immune activation.”

Authors: Darryl Eyles, et al.

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