More than 3 million women of childbearing age in the United States and 60 million worldwide have diabetes. Even if controlled with insulin and blood sugar levels are mostly kept in check, maternal diabetes can cause permanent fetal harm: approximately 300,000 to 400,000 fetuses per year from mothers with diabetes develop neural tube defects, when the tissue that eventually forms the brain and spinal cord fails to form properly, which can lead to miscarriage or profound disability.
Neural tube of a mouse embryo from a mother with diabetes at 8 (left) and 8.5 (right) days with premature aging markers (green). Credit: Peixin Yang
In order to better address this problem, a study developed by the researchers of the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM), has identified the mechanism behind these structural defects at birth, which they believe are due to‘premature aging of neural tissue, stopping its growth before it has produced enough cells to finish the formation of the neural tube.
The study was published in the scientific journal Science Advances.
Maternal diabetes: here’s what the research says
The research was carried out by UMSOM Center for the Birth Defect Study, led by Peixin Yang, Ph.D., professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences, director of the Center for Research on Birth Defects, and vice president of research in the department, e E. Albert Reece, MD, Ph.D., MBA, executive vice president of medical affairs, UM Baltimore and John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor and Dean of UMSOM .