The development of a growing fetus is undoubtedly a complicated and intricate process. Insulin-like growth factor-2, a hormone that plays a major role in fetal and placental development, can have an impact on behavior long after birth if the hormone is disrupted. Scientists at Cardiff & Cambridge Universities recently studied adult mice with an imbalance of this vital hormone.
“In order to explore how a mismatch between supply and demand of certain nutrients might affect humans, Professor Wilkinson and his colleagues Dr Trevor Humby, Mikael Mikaelsson – both also from Cardiff University – and Dr Miguel Constancia of Cambridge University, examined the behaviour of adult mice with a malfunctioned supply of a vital hormone.
Dr Humby added: “We achieved this by damaging a hormone called Insulin-like growth factor-2, important for controlling growth in the womb. What we found when we did this was an imbalance in the supply of nutrients controlled by the placenta, and that this imbalance had major effects on how subjects were during adulthood – namely, that subject became more anxious later in life.
“These symptoms were accompanied by specific changes in brain gene expression related to this type of behaviour. This is the first example of what we have termed ‘placental-programming’ of adult behaviour. We do not know exactly how these very early life events can cause long-range effects on our emotional predispositions, but we suspect that our research findings may indicate that the seeds of our behaviour, and possibly vulnerability to brain and mental health disorders, are sown much earlier than previously thought.” (source)