How does prenatal exposure to opioids trigger neurological changes?

Cheryl Rosenfeld, a professor at MU College of Veterinary Medicine, teamed up with Trupti Joshi, an assistant professor at MU College of Medicine, to compare the gut microbiota of adult mice exposed to oxycodone during pregnancy, a commonly abused opiate for the treatment of pain, in utero with the gut microbiota of rats not exposed to any opioids.

“Opioids are increasingly being prescribed to pregnant women to treat pain, but when they are used, we know that not only the mother is exposed but also the fetus as her organs are exposed,” said Rosenfeld. they are still developing. . “These findings highlight the possible long-term health effects of offspring, not only when they are born but also as adults.”

Neonates exposed to opioids

After collecting feces from both groups of mice at 120 days of age, the researchers identified significant changes and disruptions to the natural balance of bacteria in the intestines of mice exposed to oxycodone in utero. These changes are associated with changes in metabolic pathways, impact on metabolism, and potentially both behavioral and neurological health in the long run.


Rosenfeld added that the human gut microbiome is very similar to that of the mouse, making the animal a useful biomedical model for translational and precision medicine research.

“Although this study could lead to human studies, they could take 20 to 30 years because humans have a much longer lifespan than mice,” Rosenfeld said. “The opioid pandemic, one of the biggest public health crises facing the United States, is causing real harm right now, so our goal is to raise awareness right away. and hopefully protect the health and well-being of women who are currently pregnant or trying to become pregnant and their children from the potential and long-term negative effects of opioids.”

The study is personal only to Rosenfeld, whose niece was in the womb when her sister-in-law was given Quaaludes to ease her anxiety. While her granddaughter was born healthy and appeared fine as a child, she later developed respiratory, neurological and behavioral problems in her teens and is currently living in a hospital. nursing homes in their 30s.

“For children who have been exposed to opioids in utero, they are now at a higher risk of becoming addicted to opioids, too, so I’m very concerned about them as they grow up,” Rosenfeld said. “It is hoped that by identifying these correlations as soon as possible, potential interventions can be developed and alternative treatment options can be discussed to deal with pain in pregnant women.”

Joshi, a bioinformatics scientist in the MU School of Medicine’s Department of Informatics and Health Administration, is a clinician who occasionally assisted with pregnancies in India before coming to the United States to study ectopic pregnancy. Bioinformatics.

“Gene sequencing technology, bioinformatics tools and computational techniques can all be applied together to help us as researchers begin to uncover the links that tie biology together,” said Joshi. our physiology and overall health”. “We’re beginning to understand how changes in the gut microbiome can affect a person’s mood and mental health later in life. endocrine system, immune system and gut microbiota.”

“Long-term effects of developmental oxycodone exposure on the gut microbiota and its relationship to adult behaviors and metabolism” was recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Journal of the American Society for Microbiology. Funding provided by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Study co-authors include Zhen Lyu, Robert Schmidt, Rachel Martin, Madison Green, Jessica Kinkade, Jiude Mao and Nathan Bivens.

Source: Eurekalert

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