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04 - 04 - 2017

Autism: the protective effect of vitamin D in mice

The mother’s intake of vitamin D seems to have a protective effect on her offspring from the occurrence of autistic disorders in the event of prenatal infections. This conclusion emerges from a study in mice.



Autism: the protective effect of vitamin D in mice


Prenatal exposure to infections is a possible predisposing factor to neuropsychiatric disorders, including autism. Since vitamin D has immunomodulatory and neuroprotective effects, researchers wanted to know if vitamin D supplementation could prevent the risk of autism under these conditions.


A lack of autistic behaviours in predisposed mice


To do so, researcher used mice in which autistic behaviours (stereotyped behaviours, difficulties in social interactions and basic learning) were caused by mimicking a prenatal exposure to a viral infection thanks to the substance poly(I:C).

Some mothers received calcitriol supplementation, an active form of vitamin D, during the first trimester of pregnancy, while others did not. The offspring of these two groups of mothers were tested for abnormal social behaviours, anxiety and repetitive behaviours.

Result: mice whose mothers had received vitamin D did not express autistic behaviours, but the others did. These results demonstrate the protective potential of vitamin D in this model.





Testing in humans soon to come?


For the research team, the next step is to replicate these results in humans. In the animal models, the researchers used an active form of vitamin D, calcitriol, which cannot be prescribed in pregnant women. The researchers therefore want to use in women another form of vitamin D dietary supplement, cholecalciferol, also known as vitamin D3.


Hélène Bour



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