Early Biomarkers of Prenatal Stress (FELICITy)

In this Focus Group, Hans Fischer Senior Fellow Prof. Marta Antonelli (Universidad de Buenos Aires) works with PD Dr. Christina Lobmaier and Prof. Marion Kiechle from the Women’s Clinic at TUM’s university hospital Rechts der Isar. The group also collaborates with the Clinic and Policlinic for Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy (Prof. Peter Henningsen).

Pregnancy is a significant time in women´s life but it can also be very challenging. During the gestational period, women like any other subject can be exposed to endogenous and exogenous challenges that may be perceived as unpleasant, aversive or threatening in such a way that the homeostasis, wellbeing and overall health is threatened.

The Focus Group’s hypothesis is, firstly, that increased stress and anxiety will have a positive relationship with increased methylation and that perinatal DNA methylation changes in the brain occur beyond HPA related genes and that these changes can be mirrored in umbilical cord blood and saliva, which represent a reliable, non-invasive source to profile epigenetic alterations. Secondly, they hypothesize that children affected by epigenetic reprogramming already show alterations of fetal ANS. The team has already performed a number of clinical studies validating the advanced FHR techniques but now wishes to extend these studies to see if these monitoring techniques are useful for detecting PS. The significance of the proposal is that we will identify early non-invasive pre- and postnatal biomarkers of brain programming due to intrauterine stress exposure. This will help predict adverse postnatal neurodevelopmental behaviours, which is a prerequisite for designing therapeutic interventions.

Publications by the Focus Group