A shortage of dietary nutrients can severely impact the development of the brain, an Austrian study in mice has found.
Researchers, led by the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (ISTA), looked at the effect of ‘starving’ the brain of essential amino acids, which are needed to make proteins and can only be obtained from food.
Using gene editing, they deleted the gene that is involved in transporting a specific type of amino acid to the brain neurons of mice, and saw that the animals had smaller brains after birth than healthy mice.
These mice still had smaller brains as adults, which was also linked to behavioural changes similar to those seen in neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism.
Lisa Knaus, at ISTA, said: “Our work presents a detailed look at how even small changes in the metabolism and nutrient availability can have severe consequences for brain development and function.”