Speedy split: Cells destined for different cortical layers are still intermingled (orange) before birth in controls (left) but have already formed layers in mice exposed to infection in utero (right).

Exposure to infection in utero may speed up the expression of many genes linked to autism — and hasten changes in brain anatomy.

The results are in mice but hint at how infections during pregnancy may contribute to autism.

The new study is the first to look at gene expression across fetal development in mice exposed to infection, says Karol Cichewicz, a postdoctoral researcher in Alex Nord’s lab at the University of California, Davis. Cichewicz presented the unpublished findings yesterday at the 2019 Society for Neuroscience annual meeting in Chicago, Illinois.

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