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The consistently high prevalence of cardiovascular disease (CVD) has urged the need for punctual and effective prevention. Extended research on this specific area has demonstrated the influence of fetal and neonatal periods on the risk of developing CVD in adulthood. Thus, the role of traditional and novel biological markers to the effective screening of CVD among the neonatal population is widely investigated. The objective of the present narrative review is to examine those neonatal biomarkers that may play a role in the development of CVD, to exhibit scientific data that appertain to their association with various perinatal conditions leading to CVD predisposition, and their potential role on prediction and prevention strategies. Multiple biomarkers, traditional and novel, have been mined across the studied literature. Adiposity, insulin resistance, altered lipid profile, inflammation, and endothelial dysfunction seem among the headliners of CVD. Even though various novel molecules have been studied, their clinical utility remains controversial. Therefore, it is quite important for the scientific community to find elements with strong predictive value and practical clinical use.
Evidence clearly indicates that the nutritional and non-nutritional environment and level of physical activity during the early-life period from preconception through infancy has a lifelong impact on the child’s health. However this message must be communicated effectively to parents and other stakeholders such as grandparents, health professionals, policymakers and the wider community in order for positive change to occur. This systematic review explores how both awareness and understanding of the long-term effects of the early-life environment have been measured in various populations and whether any patterns are evident. Ten articles were retrieved via a search of Embase, Medline and Scopus databases for peer-reviewed studies designed to assess participants’ knowledge of the links between early-life exposures and adult health. Eligible articles spanned a wide range of countries, population groups and research methods. Three common themes were identified using thematic analysis: 1. a tendency for researchers to conflate participant understanding of the issue (the WHY) with a knowledge of key phrases and nutrition guidelines (the WHAT); 2. bias in both researchers and participants towards short-term thinking due to difficulty conceptualising long-term risk; and 3. challenges in comprehending the complexity of the evidence resulting in oversimplification and the overemphasis of maternal factors. Taken together these findings underscore the importance of a multi-level, whole-of-society approach to communicating the evidence, with the goal of influencing policy decisions as well as building a foundation of community support for parents and prospective parents to create a healthy early-life environment for the long-term wellbeing of all.
High-quality evidence from prospective longitudinal studies in humans is essential to testing hypotheses related to the developmental origins of health and disease. In this paper, the authors draw upon their own experiences leading birth cohorts with longitudinal follow-up into adulthood to describe specific challenges and lessons learned. Challenges are substantial and grow over time. Long-term funding is essential for study operations and critical to retaining study staff, who develop relationships with participants and hold important institutional knowledge and technical skill sets. To maintain contact, we recommend that cohorts apply multiple strategies for tracking and obtain as much high-quality contact information as possible before the child’s 18th birthday. To maximize engagement, we suggest that cohorts offer flexibility in visit timing, length, location, frequency, and type. Data collection may entail multiple modalities, even at a single collection timepoint, including measures that are self-reported, research-measured, and administrative with a mix of remote and in-person collection. Many topics highly relevant for adolescent and young adult health and well-being are considered to be private in nature, and their assessment requires sensitivity. To motivate ongoing participation, cohorts must work to understand participant barriers and motivators, share scientific findings, and provide appropriate compensation for participation. It is essential for cohorts to strive for broad representation including individuals from higher risk populations, not only among the participants but also the staff. Successful longitudinal follow-up of a study population ultimately requires flexibility, adaptability, appropriate incentives, and opportunities for feedback from participants.
Hyperglycemia during the first trimester leads to an increased risk of innate malformations as well as death at times close to delivery dates. The methylated genes include those from paternal H19 and PEG3 and those from maternal MEST and MEG3 that are necessary for the growth and regulation of the human fetus and its placenta. The aim of this study was to evaluate and compare the expression of these genes in the cord blood of healthy infants born to mothers with gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) and healthy mothers.
This case-control study was conducted on the cord blood of 40 infants born to mothers with GDM and 35 infants born to healthy mothers. Mothers were identified by measuring oral glucose tolerance in the 24th–26th week of pregnancy. Cord blood was obtained post-delivery, and cord blood mononuclear cells were immediately extracted, using Ficoll solution. Then, RNA extraction and cDNA synthesis were performed, and gene expression of MEG3, PEG3, H19, and MEST was assessed through quantitative real-time PCR.
Findings show that the expression levels of MEG3, PEG3, H19, and MEST genes were significantly decreased in mononuclear cord blood cells of infants born to mothers with GDM when compared to those of the healthy control group.
These findings reveal that the reduction of imprinted genes in mothers with GDM is most likely due to changes in their methylation by an epigenetic process. Considering the importance of GDM due to its high prevalence and its side effects both for mother and fetus, recognizing their exact mechanisms is of high importance. This has to be studied more widely.
Optimizing research on the developmental origins of health and disease (DOHaD) involves implementing initiatives maximizing the use of the available cohort study data; achieving sufficient statistical power to support subgroup analysis; and using participant data presenting adequate follow-up and exposure heterogeneity. It also involves being able to undertake comparison, cross-validation, or replication across data sets. To answer these requirements, cohort study data need to be findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable (FAIR), and more particularly, it often needs to be harmonized. Harmonization is required to achieve or improve comparability of the putatively equivalent measures collected by different studies on different individuals. Although the characteristics of the research initiatives generating and using harmonized data vary extensively, all are confronted by similar issues. Having to collate, understand, process, host, and co-analyze data from individual cohort studies is particularly challenging. The scientific success and timely management of projects can be facilitated by an ensemble of factors. The current document provides an overview of the ‘life course’ of research projects requiring harmonization of existing data and highlights key elements to be considered from the inception to the end of the project.
A transgenerational, epigenetic effect of anesthesia, particularly fluorinated agents, has been examined in rat models, but translation to humans is unclear. This study examined associations of maternal lifetime exposure to anesthesia and pregnancy exposure to fluorinated anesthetics with child cognitive and educational outcomes. Women in the US Collaborative Perinatal Project (1959–1963) reported lifetime history of surgeries, and the obstetric record captured pregnancy exposure to anesthetics. Children were followed to age 7 for global cognitive ability and educational outcomes (n=47,977). Logistic and linear regressions were adjusted for maternal and child birth years, race and ethnicity, smoking, education, parity, study site. Many outcomes were not associated with exposure to maternal surgery that occurred at various life stages. However, maternal surgery in early childhood was associated both with being in a special school or not in school (adj OR=1.42; 95% CI 1.02, 1.98) and with slightly better cognitive ability across childhood (e.g., WISC IQ (adj β=0.59; CI 0.13, 1.04) (especially among boys)). Maternal surgery in puberty was associated with slightly lower IQ (adj β = –0.42; CI –0.79, –0.05) and poorer spelling at age 7. Children’s prenatal exposure to fluorinated anesthetics was associated with slightly better spelling ability (adj β = 1.20; CI 0.02, 2.38) but lower performance IQ at age 7 (only among boys, adj β = –1.97; CI –3.88, –0.06). This study shows inconsistent evidence of effects of maternal exposure to surgery or prenatal exposure to fluorinated agents on child developmental and educational outcomes Residual confounding by indication and socioeconomic status may explain observed associations.
Exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals during critical windows of development may lead to functional abnormalities in adulthood. Isoflavones are a flavonoid group of phytoestrogens that are recognized by their estrogenic activity and are highly abundant in soybean. Since the thyroid gland presents estrogen receptors and infants, toddlers and teenagers may consume isoflavones from soy-based infant formula and beverages as alternatives to animal milk, we propose to investigate the potential effects of relevant concentrations of soy isoflavones in the regulation of the hypothalamic–pituitary (HP) thyroid axis using peripubertal male rats as an experimental model. Thirty-two 23-day-old male rats were exposed to 0.5, 5, or 50 mg of soy isoflavones/kg from weaning to 60 days of age, when they were euthanized, and the tissues were collected to evaluate the mRNA expression of genes involved in the regulation of the HP thyroid axis and dosages of thyroid hormones (THs). Serum TSH concentrations were increased, while alterations were not observed in serum concentrations of triiodothyronine and thyroxine. Regarding mRNA gene expression, Mct-8 was increased in the hypothalamus, Mct-8, Thra1, and Thrb2 were decreased in the pituitary, and Nis and Pds were reduced in the thyroid. In the heart, Mct8 and Thrb2 were increased, and Thra1 was decreased. In the liver, Mct8, Thra1, and Thrb2 were decreased. These results suggest that the consumption of relevant doses of soy isoflavones during the peripubertal period in males may induce subclinical hypothyroidism, with alterations in the regulation of the HP thyroid axis, modulation of TH synthesis, and peripheral alterations in TH target organs.
Developmental programming studies using mouse models have housed the animals at human thermoneutral temperatures (22°C) which imposes constant cold stress. As this impacts energy homeostasis, we investigated the effects of two housing temperatures (22°C and 30°C) on obesity development in male and female offspring of Control and FR dams. Pregnant mice were housed at 22°C (cold-exposed, CE) or 30°C (thermoneutrality, TN) room temperature. At gestational age e10, mice were fed either an ad libitum diet (Control) or were 30% food-restricted (FR) to produce low birth weight newborns. Following delivery, all dams were fed an ad libitum diet and maternal mice continued to nurse their own pups. At 3 weeks of age, offspring were weaned to an ad libitum diet and housed at similar temperatures as their mothers. Body weights and food intake were monitored. At 6 months of age, body composition and glucose tolerance test were determined, after which, brain and adipose tissue were collected for analysis. FR/CE and FR/TN offspring exhibited hyperphagia and were significantly heavier with increased adiposity as compared to their respective Controls. There was sex-specific effects of temperature in both groups. Male offspring at TN were heavier with increased body fat, though the food intake was decreased as compared to CE males. This was reflected by hypertrophic adipocytes and increased arcuate nucleus satiety/appetite ratio. In contrast, female offspring were not impacted by housing temperature. Thus, unlike female offspring, there was a significant interaction of diet and temperature evident in the male offspring with accentuated adverse effects evident in FR/TN males.
Exposure to a diet with a high saturated fat content can influence the characteristics of the gastrointestinal tract, causing losses in the absorption of nutrients and favoring the appearance of diseases. The objective was to assess the effects of a high-fat diet (HFD) in the perinatal (pregnancy and lactation) and post-weaning period on the histomorphometry, neuroplasticity, and histopathology of the ileum. Wistar rats were divided into four subgroups: Control/Control (CC, n = 10) rats fed a control diet (C) throughout the trial period; Control/HFD (CH, n = 9) rats fed diet C (perinatal) and HFD after weaning; HFD/Control (HC, n = 10) rats fed HFD (perinatal) and diet C (post-weaning); HFD/HFD (HH, n = 9) rats fed HFD throughout the experimental period. There was atrophy of the Ileum wall with a reduction in the muscular tunic, submucosa, and mucosa thickness in the HH group of 37%, 28%, and 46%, respectively (p < 0.0001). The depth of the crypts decreased by 29% (p < 0.0001) and height increased by 5% (p < 0.0013). Villus height decreased by 41% and 18% in HH and HC groups (p < 0.0001) and width decreased by 11% in the HH (p < 0.0001). The height of the enterocytes decreased by 18% in the HH (p < 0.0001). There was a decrease in the area of the myenteric and submucosal plexus ganglia in the HH and HC groups (p < 0.0001). The number, occupation, and granules of Paneth cells increased in the HH and HC groups (p < 0.0001). Intraepithelial lymphocytes (IELs) increased in all groups exposed to the HFD. Goblet cells decreased in groups CH and HH (p < 0.0001). The evidence from this study suggests that the HFD had altered the histomorphometry, neuroplasticity, and histopathology of the ileum of the rats.
One of the longstanding debates in life-course epidemiology is whether an adverse intrauterine environment, often proxied by birth weight, causally increases the future risk of cardiometabolic disease. The use of a discordant twin study design, which controls for the influence of shared genetic and environmental confounding factors, may be useful to investigate whether this relationship is causal. We conducted a discordant twin study of 120 monozygotic (MZ) and 148 dizygotic (DZ) twin pairs from the UK Biobank to explore the potential causal relationships between birth weight and a broad spectrum of later-life cardiometabolic risk factors. We used a linear mixed model to investigate the association between birth weight and later-life cardiometabolic risk factors for twins, allowing for both within-pair differences and between-pair differences in birth weight. Of primary interest is the within-pair association between differences in birth weight and cardiometabolic risk factors, which could reflect an intrauterine effect on later-life risk factors. We found no strong evidence of association in MZ twins between the within-pair differences in birth weight and most cardiometabolic risk factors in later life, except for nominal associations with C-reactive protein and insulin-like growth factor 1. However, these associations were not replicated in DZ twin pairs. Our study provided no strong evidence for intrauterine effects on later-life cardiometabolic risk factors, which is consistent with previous large-scale studies of singletons testing the potential causal relationship. It does not support the hypothesis that adverse intrauterine environments increase the risk of cardiometabolic disease in later life.
Fructose (C6H12O6) is acutely obesogenic and is a risk factor for hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. However, the possible long-lasting effects of early-life fructose consumption have not been studied. We tested for effects of early-life fructose and/or wheel access (voluntary exercise) in a line of selectively bred High Runner (HR) mice and a non-selected Control (C) line. Exposures began at weaning and continued for 3 weeks to sexual maturity, followed by a 23-week "washout" period (equivalent to ∼17 human years). Fructose increased total caloric intake, body mass, and body fat during juvenile exposure, but had no effect on juvenile wheel running and no important lasting effects on adult physical activity or body weight/composition. Interestingly, adult maximal aerobic capacity (VO2max) was reduced in mice that had early-life fructose and wheel access. Consistent with previous studies, early-life exercise promoted adult wheel running. In a 3-way interaction, C mice that had early-life fructose and no wheel access gained body mass in response to 2 weeks of adult wheel access, while all other groups lost mass. Overall, we found some long-lasting positive effects of early-life exercise, but minimal effects of early-life fructose, regardless of the mouse line.
Maternal obesity and malnutrition during gestation and lactation have been recognized to increase the risk of obesity and metabolic disorders in the offspring across their lifespan. However, the gestational period during which malnutrition exerts a decisive effect is unclear. Brown adipose tissue (BAT) plays a critical role in energy metabolism owing to its high efficiency in oxidizing glucose and fatty acids. This study aimed to determine the impact of maternal high-fat diet (HFD) consumption only during pregnancy on BAT and energy metabolism in offspring mice. Dams were fed an HFD or a normal chow diet from embryonic day 2.5. HFD consumption during pregnancy induced glucose intolerance and hypertension in dams. In the offspring of HFD-fed dams, maternal HFD lowered fetal weight without affecting placental weight, whereas HFD consumption after birth exacerbated oxygen consumption and cold-induced thermogenesis at 12 months of age, accompanied by increased lipid droplet size in BAT. These data demonstrate that HFD consumption only during pregnancy exerts a long-lasting effect on BAT. Collectively, these findings indicate the importance of nutrition during pregnancy with respect to the energy metabolism of the offspring, and pregnant women should thus ensure proper nutrition during pregnancy to ensure normal energy metabolism in the offspring.
Fetal growth restriction (FGR) is associated with reduced cardiac function in neonates. Uteroplacental insufficiency (UPI) is the most common cause of FGR. The mechanisms underlying these alterations remain unknown. We hypothesized that UPI would influence cardiac development in offspring rats. Through this study, we evaluated the effects of UPI during pregnancy on heart histology and pulmonary hypertension in growth-restricted newborn rats. On gestation Day 18, either UPI was induced through bilateral uterine vessel ligation (FGR group) or sham surgery (control group) was performed. The right middle lobe of the lung and the heart were harvested for histological and immunohistochemical evaluation on postnatal days 0 and 7. The FGR group exhibited significantly lower body weight, hypertrophy and degeneration of cardiomyocytes, increased intercellular spaces between the cardiomyocytes and collagen deposition, and decreased glycogen deposition and HNK-1 expression compared with the control group on postnatal days 0 and 7. These results suggest that neonates with FGR may have inadequate myocardial reserves, which may cause subsequent cardiovascular compromise in future life. Further studies are required to evaluate the hemodynamic changes in these growth-restricted neonates.
Topiramate (TOP) is a psychotropic drug prescribed for the treatment of epilepsy in children older than 2 years of age and for migraine prophylaxis in adolescents. There is evidence that TOP promotes negative effects on the reproductive system of male rats. This study aimed to evaluate the immediate and late treatment effects of TOP during childhood and adolescence on the male rat reproductive system. Two experimental groups received 41 mg/kg of TOP daily, by gavage, from postnatal day (PND) 16 to 28 (TOPc group) or from PND 28 to 50 (TOPa group). Control groups (CTRc group or CTRa group) received water daily. Half of the anim–als were evaluated 24 h after the end of treatment (PND 29 and PND 51, respectively) and the remainder were evaluated in adulthood (PND120). The following parameters were determined: anogenital distance, sperm evaluation, testis’ histomorphometry and plasma testosterone concentration. At PND 120, the volume (CTRc:62.58 ± 2.13; TOPc: 54.54 ± 2.10*%, p = 0.018) and total length (CTRc: 25.48 ± 1.61; TOPc: 18.94 ± 2.41*, p = 0.035) of seminiferous tubules were decreased and the volume of interstitial tissue (CTRc:37.41 ± 2.13; TOPc: 45.45 ± 2.09*%, p = 0.018) and number of Leydig cells/testis (CTRc: 277.00 ± 36.70; TOPc: 400.20 ± 13.23*, p = 0.013) were increased in the TOPc group. The other parameters remained similar between the groups. Therefore, the present study contributes to our understanding that childhood treatment with TOP has an impact on the rat reproductive system in adulthood, suggesting that this period is more sensitive to TOP exposure than adolescence.
Malathion is an insecticide that is used to control arboviruses and agricultural pests. Adolescents that are exposed to this insecticide are the most vulnerable as they are in the critical period of postnatal sexual development. This study aimed to evaluate whether malathion damage can affect sperm function and its respective mechanisms when adolescents are exposed during postnatal sexual development. Twenty-four male Wistar rats (PND 25) were divided into three experimental groups and treated daily for 40 d: control group (saline 0.9%), 10 mg/kg (M10 group), or 50 mg/kg (M50 group) of malathion. At PND 65, the rats were anesthetized and euthanized. Testicles were collected for the evaluation of gene expression. Sperm cells from the epididymis were used for evaluation of the oxidative profile or spermatic function. Data showed that a lower dose of malathion downregulated the gene expression of androgen receptors and testosterone converter enzyme 17-β-HSD in the testis. The acrosomal integrity of sperm cells was compromised in the M50 group, but not the M10 group. The mitochondrial activity was not impaired by exposure. Finally, although no alterations in malondialdehyde and glutathione levels were observed, malathion, at both doses, increased antioxidant enzyme catalase activity and, at a higher dose, superoxide dismutase activity. The present study showed that low doses of malathion considered to be inoffensive are capable of impairing sperm quality and function through the downregulation of testicular genic expression of AR enzyme 17-β-HSD and can damage the spermatic antioxidant profile during critical periods of development.
Characterizing and quantifying the trajectories of variables of interest through time in their field of study is of interest to a range of disciplines. The aim of this study was to investigate the growth speed in height of children and its determinants. A total of 3401 males and 3200 females from four low- and middle-income countries with measured height on five occasions from 2002 to 2016 were included in the study. Data were analyzed using a latent growth model. The results of the study reported that children in four low- and middle-income countries exhibited substantial growth inequalities. There was a significant gender difference in change of growth with males had a higher baseline, rate of change, and acceleration in height growth than females. Comparing the component of slopes across countries, the growth change inequalities were observed among children. These inequalities were statistically significant, with the highest rate of change observed in Peru and Vietnam.
Compared to preterm appropriate for gestational age (AGA) fetuses, fetuses with fetal growth restriction (FGR) have earlier visualisation of coronary artery blood flow (CABF) but impaired cardiac function. This dichotomy remains uncharacterised during postnatal life. This study compared CABF and cardiac function in preterm FGR infants, against AGA infants during the postnatal period. FGR was defined as birthweight < 10th centile for gestation and sex with absent/reversed antenatal umbilical artery Doppler. Diastolic CABF was measured in the left anterior descending coronary artery. Twenty-eight FGR infants were compared with 26 AGA infants (gestation and birthweight, 29.7 ± 1.3 vs 29.9 ± 1 weeks, P = 0.6 and 918 ± 174 vs 1398 ± 263g, P < 0.001, respectively). Echocardiography was performed in the second week of life. FGR infants had higher CABF (velocity time integral, 2.4 ± 0.9 vs 1.6 ± 0.8 cm, P = 0.002). Diastolic function was impaired (↑ trans-mitral E/A ratio in FGR infants; 0.84 ± 0.05 vs 0.79 ± 0.03, P = 0.0002) while the systolic function was also affected (mean velocity of circumferential fibre shortening [mVCFc], 1.9 ± 0.3 vs 2.7 ± 0.5 circ/s, P < 0.001). Indexing CABF to cardiac function noted significant differences between the groups (CABF: E/A [FGR vs AGA], 2.9 ± 1.1 vs 2.1 ± 1, P = 0.01 and CABF: mVCFc [FGR vs AGA], 1.3 ± 0.5 vs 0.6 ± 0.3, P < 0.001). Diastolic blood pressure (BP) was significantly higher, and CABF to diastolic BP ratio trended higher in FGR infants (30 ± 2 vs 25 ± 3 mmHg, P < 0.001 and 0.08 ± 0.03 vs 0.06 ± 0.03, P = 0.059, respectively). Greater CABF in FGR infants did not translate into better cardiac function. This dichotomy may be a persistent response to fetal hypoxaemia (fetal programming) and/or reflection of altered cardiac architecture.
The prenatal environment may program health and disease susceptibility via epigenetic mechanisms. We evaluated associations of maternal trimester-specific intake of micronutrients with global DNA methylation (%5mC) and 5-hydroxymethylation (%5hmC) at birth in cord blood and tested for persistence into childhood. We quantified global %5mC and %5hmC in cord blood cells (n = 434) and in leukocytes collected in early (n = 108) and mid-childhood (n = 390) from children in Project Viva, a pre-birth cohort from Boston, MA. Validated food frequency questionnaires estimated maternal first- and second-trimester intakes of vitamin B2, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, folate, betaine, choline, methionine, iron, and zinc. Mean (SD) cord blood %5mC and %5hmC was 5.62% (2.04) and 0.25% (0.15), respectively. Each μg increase in first-trimester B12 intake was associated with 0.002 lower %5hmC in cord blood (95% CI: −0.005, −0.0003), and this association persisted in early childhood (β = −0.007; 95% CI: −0.01, −0.001) but not mid-childhood. Second-trimester iron (mg) was associated with 0.01 lower %5mC (95% CI: −0.02, −0.002) and 0.001 lower %5hmC (95% CI: −0.01, −0.00001) in cord blood only. Increased second-trimester zinc (mg) intake was associated with 0.003 greater %5hmC in early childhood (β = 0.003; 95% CI: 0.0004, 0.006). Second-trimester folate was positively associated with %5hmC in early childhood only (β = 0.08, 95% CI: 0.003, 0.16). Associations did not survive multiple testing adjustment; future replication is needed. Trimester-specific nutrients may impact various sensitive windows of epigenetic programming some with lasting effects in childhood. Further research is needed to understand the role of gene-specific epigenetic changes and how global DNA methylation measures relate to child health.