Translational opportunities in the prenatal immune environment: Promises and limitations of the maternal immune activation model

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12 Scopus citations


The prenatal environment, and in particular, the maternal-fetal immune environment, has emerged as a targeted area of research for central nervous system (CNS) diseases with neurodevelopmental origins. Converging evidence from both clinical and preclinical research indicates that changes in the maternal gestational immune environment can alter fetal brain development and increase the risk for certain neurodevelopmental disorders. Here we focus on the translational potential of one prenatal animal model – the maternal immune activation (MIA) model. This model stems from the observation that a subset of pregnant women who are exposed to infection during pregnancy have an increased risk of giving birth to a child who will later be diagnosed with a neurodevelopmental disorder, such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or schizophrenia (SZ). The preclinical MIA model provides a system in which to explore causal relationships, identify underlying neurobiological mechanisms, and, ultimately, develop novel therapeutic interventions and preventative strategies. In this review, we will highlight converging evidence from clinical and preclinical research that links changes in the maternal-fetal immune environment with lasting changes in offspring brain and behavioral development. We will then explore the promises and limitations of the MIA model as a translational tool to develop novel therapeutic interventions. As the translational potential of the MIA model has been the focus of several excellent review articles, here we will focus on what is perhaps the least well developed area of MIA model research – novel preventative strategies and therapeutic interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number104864
JournalNeurobiology of Disease
StatePublished - Jul 2020


  • Animal models
  • Neurodevelopmental disorders
  • Neuroimmunology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology


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