Maternal autoimmunity is a recognised risk factor for autism and other neurodevelopmental and psychiatric disorders in the offspring. It is well established in humans and animal models that a proinflammatory maternal environment whilst pregnant can affect fetal brain development. This PhD will link clinical studies in humans with an animal model of maternal autoimmunity to determine the effects of inflammation during pregnancy on fetal astrocytes and microglia using molecular, cellular and microscopic techniques.
When pregnant, activation of the maternal immune system can negatively affect the fetal brain resulting in increased risk of neurodevelopmental and mental health problems in the offspring. This PhD project will link clinical observations (Professor Russell Dale, Paediatric Neurology, Children's Hospital Westmead) with a basic science animal model (Dr Markus Hofer, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Cluster, School of Life and Environmental Sciences). The animal model will reproduce maternal autoimmunity and examine the effects of the activated immune environment on brain microglia in the offspring. Opportunities to modify the microglia activation in the animal model can be translated to observations in children with neurodevelopmental and mental health disease.
The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is 2472