Pre-natal Stress and the Development of Multiple Sclerosis

Students: Rachel Chan, Stella Babatunde

Type of Project: Basic, Mind and Body

Grant Type: Undergraduate

Year of Award: 2016

Supervisor: Dr. Gerlinde Metz

Institution: University of Lethbridge

Background: Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks the nervous system causing widespread damage. This project proposes that pre-natal stress leads to early life programing though epigenetic mechanisms can lead one to be predisposed to MS, which will be tested in rat model of MS.

Results: One study will test the this epigenetic theory using psychological measures in rats (Rachel, 2016). Another study (Stella, 2016) will track the neural development of MS symptoms to understand how these changes happen. Both of these projects are currently underway.

Impact: Since there are a number of proven neuroCAM therapies for stress reduction, this study could validate the use of these in pregnant women as protective measures against MS. Furthermore, these studies will help us understand the epigenetic development of MS, which can help identify possible lifestyle interventions.