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The University of Southampton
Centre for Human Development, Stem Cells and RegenerationResearch themes

Maternal diet and neural stem cells during brain development

Neural stem cells differentiation into neurons (Beta-III-tubulin) green, nuclei in blue
Neurons from neural stem cells

 Early studies suggest an effect of the maternal low protein diet on the overall brain growth and cell cycle. More recently, generation of astrocytes and mature neurons in postnatal brain has been shown to be affected by protein restriction during gestation. These and our preliminary data suggest that neural stem cells activity might be affected by a maternal low protein diet. Our hypothesis is that a maternal low protein diet during gestation, and possibly just during the periconceptional period, affects the development of the brain and the regulation of neural stem cells across life. The aims of the project are to define the effects of a maternal low protein diet on the development of the brain and the regulation of neural stem cells, at cellular and organ levels. In particular, the project examines whether a low protein maternal diet regulates in vitro and in vivo proliferation, self-renewal, differentiation and migration of the offspring neural stem cells at different ages, using techniques such as sphere assay, immunocyto/histochemistry, videomicroscopy, migration assays, in vivo labelling and imaging. The project also examines what the critical window is during development of the brain for low protein maternal diet to affect neural stem cells and brain development.

Neural stem cells positive for GFAP (red) and Nestin (green), nuclei in blue
Neural stem cells


Sandrine Willaime-Morawek, Tom Fleming

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