Early Stress (Newborns) and MS

If it's on your mind and it has to do with multiple sclerosis in any way, post it here.

Early Stress (Newborns) and MS

Postby OddDuck » Tue Feb 22, 2005 10:54 am

Have we seen this? I've seen something similar before regarding stress on infants, but not exactly on point with MS like this.


Stress For Newborns Could Weaken Immune System Later In Life

June 21, 2004 - Intense traumatic events, such as maternal separation, occurring early in the life of an infant may weaken its immune system, making it more susceptible to viral infections later in life that could trigger multiple sclerosis, reveals research at Texas A&M University.

The research, by a psychologist Mary Meagher from the College of Liberal Arts and an immunologist Jane Welsh from the College of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A&M, shows that exposure to prolonged maternal separation during the first two weeks of life altered immune, endocrine and behavioral responses to acute "Theiler's virus" infection in mice.

Theiler's virus attacks the central nervous system during the first few weeks of infection, which is accompanied by polio-like symptoms. If the virus persists in the central nervous system, a subsequent chronic phase of the disease develops which is similar to multiple sclerosis in humans.

Researchers use Theiler's virus to investigate the role of stress in autoimmune diseases, or diseases that cause the body to attack its own cells as if they were foreign pathogens - a similar process occurs in multiple sclerosis, Meagher explains.

In this study, infant mice that were subjected to maternal separation and later contracted Theiler's virus as adults demonstrated an increased amount of the virus, altered behavioral signs of infection and had a more difficult time getting over, or "clearing," the infection in its acute stage than did mice that were not separated from their mothers and later contracted the disease.

Such results, Meagher explains, suggest that the immune system is undergoing a critical period of development early in an organism's life, and that a considerable stressor can cause significant life-long alterations to the immune system that increase its vulnerability to diseases of the central nervous system later in life.

Previous studies have shown stress to play an important role in the contracting of multiple sclerosis in humans, finding that 80 percent of adults who contract the disease reported a stressful life event two years before its onset. Meagher's research takes that exploration a step further, examining how early life stress alters vulnerability to later viral infections of the central nervous system.

Her research is being conducted as part of the "Recovery of Function" program, a new interdisciplinary program that enrolls about 30 graduate students and is composed of 14 faculty members from seven departments in four colleges at Texas A&M - the Colleges of Liberal Arts, Veterinary Medicine, Agriculture and Life Sciences, and Medicine. The program focuses on research interests such as the loss and recovery of neural function following injury, infection, aging and neurodegenerative disease in laboratory animal models. In addition, the program is affiliated with several off-campus research centers in Houston, Galveston and Dallas that focus on both laboratory and clinical research.

Understanding how early stress affects the developing immune system could lead to interventions that prevent or reverse the harmful effects of newborn stress on disease predisposition, Meagher says. Some treatments could possibly include antidepressants and/or teaching coping mechanisms for individuals who are more likely to be susceptible to the disease, she adds.

Contact: Mary Meagher, (979)845-2564, via e-mail: m-meagher@tamu.edu or Ryan A. Garcia, (979) 845-4680 or via e-mail: rag@univrel.tamu.edu.


Office of University Relations
Texas A&M University
(979) 845-4641
User avatar
Contributing Author
Posts: 1040
Joined: Sat Jun 19, 2004 3:00 pm
Location: Tennessee


Postby OddDuck » Tue Feb 22, 2005 3:05 pm

hmmmmmmm......here is another earlier abstract that found the same thing.

I would say at the very least: Mothers, don't be afraid to handle and cuddle your babies! You won't spoil them, and you may help protect them from future disease or the predisposition thereto, including MS in particular! (Well, I'll be darned!)

Int J Dev Neurosci. 1998 Feb;16(1):1-8.

Neonatal handling in EAE-susceptible rats alters NGF levels and mast cell distribution in the brain.

Manni L, Micera A, Pistillo L, Aloe L.

Institute of Neurobiology, CNR, Rome, Italy.

Maternal separation in neonatal rodents causes a wide range of behavioural and metabolic alterations, affecting the physiological response of the neuro-immune-endocrine system. For example, interference with the normal mother-infant interactions leads to an increased susceptibility to experimentally-induced allergic encephalomyelitis (EAE) in adult life. Since it has been reported that mast cells (MCs) participate in the pathophysiology of the autoimmune inflammatory disease multiple sclerosis (MS) and also EAE and that brain nerve growth factor (NGF) levels are altered in EAE, studied whether maternal separation and gentle manipulation (gentling) of neonatal Lewis rats perturb NGF levels or MC distribution in the brain. EAE-induction susceptibility in adult life was also evaluated and NGF levels and mast cell distribution within the hippocampus and thalamus were measured at 0, 10, 20 and 60 postnatal days. Our results show an exacerbation of clinical signs in rats separated from mothers where EAE was induced, a general decrease in NGF protein levels and MC number in the hippocampus during the first developmental period and significant increase in the number of MC in the hippocampus and the thalamus at young-adulthood (60 days of age). These results indicate that disruption of the maternal bond during early infancy may produce long-lasting alterations in the brain cellular and molecular environment, leading to increased susceptibility to EAE in adult life.

PMID: 9664217 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

And..........although this is definitely not recommended to be prescribed to children, of course, if the above abstracts in particular prove valid, then here is another "connection" for desipramine's efficacy for some patterns of MS.

Int J Neuropsychopharmacol. 2003 Dec;6(4):391-6.

Desipramine treatment reduces the long-term behavioural and neurochemical sequelae of early-life maternal separation.

MacQueen GM, Ramakrishnan K, Ratnasingan R, Chen B, Young LT.

Mood Disorders Program, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. macqueng@mcmaster.ca

Primate and rodent models of maternal separation have shown that repeated postnatal separation of young from the mother results in long-term changes to neurohormonal systems relevant to depression. To date, however, it remains unclear whether rodents that experience postnatal maternal separation display specific behavioural or biochemical features of depression in adulthood and whether these changes can be prevented by treatment with antidepressant drugs. We report here that maternally separated mice showed significantly shorter swim times on the forced swim test and significantly lower levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor in dentate gyrus and CA3 regions of the hippocampus compared to control mice when assessed in adulthood. Neither of these differences was apparent in maternally separated mice that received chronic treatment with the antidepressant desipramine after maternal separation. These results suggest that intervention following early stress may eliminate the long-term vulnerability to behavioural and biochemical dysfunction that occurs following this early chronic stress.

PMID: 14641986 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
User avatar
Contributing Author
Posts: 1040
Joined: Sat Jun 19, 2004 3:00 pm
Location: Tennessee

Postby BioDocFL » Tue Feb 22, 2005 5:40 pm

So it might follow that there is a correlation between premature babies and eventual MS development since the premies are kept somewhat isolated. A quick poll of MSers who know they were or were not premature births might suggest a correlation.
User avatar
Family Elder
Posts: 251
Joined: Wed Aug 11, 2004 3:00 pm
Location: Florida

Postby Arron » Tue Feb 22, 2005 6:36 pm

Wesley, we'll put one up in this forum...
Disclaimer: Any information you find on this site should not be considered medical advice. All decisions should be made with the consent of your doctor, otherwise you are at your own risk.
User avatar
Volunteer Moderator
Posts: 893
Joined: Sun Feb 01, 2004 4:00 pm
Location: California, USA

Postby OddDuck » Wed Feb 23, 2005 5:16 am

That's true, Wesley!

I was adopted as a baby. I was with my mother for the first two weeks of life and then abruptly taken completely away and given to a "new" (and unfortunately abusive) mother. Extreme example of maternal separation.

That's another "personal" reason why I said "I'll be darned!"

So, yes, premies and adopted children, too. Or even if you come from a family (it seems to be the relationship with the "mother" that is important) who was not overly "affectionate".

Of course, this also speaks of predisposition to when you get viruses, you don't clear them out completely, etc.

Anyway, yes....this will be interesting. We may not find it to be something that is "prevelant", but this could be what is happening to a few folks anyway. I know it did to me. I can clearly isolate that it has. I showed signs of extreme "stress" and illness beginning as a baby a few months old. They even had to give me something FOR "stress" as a child! Remember, my purely physical neurological problems started as a child, too.

It's no wonder I have CNS disease (truly, most of us, including my first neuro DO believe that what I have is MS). Vanderbilt tends to tell EVERYONE they "don't" have it.

User avatar
Contributing Author
Posts: 1040
Joined: Sat Jun 19, 2004 3:00 pm
Location: Tennessee

Postby bromley » Wed Feb 23, 2005 6:03 am

Dear all,

I was about six weeks premature (with my twin sister - who does not have any sign of having ms). Twins are more commonly premature so one might expect ms to be more common among twins if being premature did affect the immune system and increase the risk of ms.

Up to age 18 we lived in the same house, ate the same food and had the same childhood illnesses - we were therefore exposed to the same 'environmental factors' and I assume have very similar genetics. The only deference was at age 16 when I contracted glandular fever and was knocked out for a month. However, my ms symptoms did not appear until 23 years later (age 39) so it might have nothing to do with the galndular fever episode.

I don't think they'll ever pin down one environmental factor. However, I understand that research is being undertaken in Canada on the very young children who are diagnosed with ms. This might allow them to identify a trigger - but it might only relate to those who get it early. As ever, the mystery of ms continues.

User avatar
Family Elder
Posts: 1888
Joined: Fri Sep 10, 2004 3:00 pm

Return to General Discussion


  • Related topics
    Last post

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users

Contact us | Terms of Service