By Neuroscience News
Cambridge scientists have made a groundbreaking discovery. Fetuses are using a copy of a gene inherited from their fathers to 'remote-control' their mothers.
This gene nudges mothers to release as much nutrients as possible during pregnancy. It sets the stage for a nutritional tug of war between mother and unborn baby.
A recent study from the University of Cambridge has shed light on this unique phenomenon. It explores how the placenta communicates with the mother, urging her to accommodate the baby’s growth.
Professor Amanda Sferruzzi-Perri said, 'It’s the first direct evidence that a gene inherited from the father is signaling to the mother to divert nutrients to the fetus.' Dr. Miguel Constancia added, 'Genes controlled by the father are ‘greedy’ and will manipulate maternal resources for the fetus's benefit.'
But the mother's genes play a role too. They are thought to limit fetal growth, ensuring the mother's survival and ability to have future pregnancies.
The researchers also examined the Igf2 gene, which plays a crucial role in fetal growth. Without it, mothers don't make enough glucose and lipids, leaving the fetus undernourished.
Babies with Igf2 gene defects can be overgrown or growth-stunted. And the mice studied, born smaller, showed early signs of diabetes and obesity later in life.
The placenta's role is vital, affecting the lifelong health of the offspring. Further research could pave the way for new strategies to improve health outcomes for both mothers and babies.