Laura Goetzl of Temple University in the U.S. will analyze whether the presence of specific microRNAs in maternal blood during early pregnancy can act as biomarkers of fetal neurodevelopment. Although the causes of neurological disorders such as autism are mostly unknown, they likely involve early defects in neurodevelopment. However, there is no simple, low-cost method for monitoring fetal neurodevelopment. They will identify candidate microRNA molecules at different stages of pregnancy in the blood of women who have elected termination that correlate with neurodevelopmental parameters in fetal brain tissue such as cell types and levels of cell death. They will also analyze blood from women exposed to alcohol during pregnancy to identify the microRNAs associated with abnormal neurodevelopment.
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