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Insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) is a critical fetal growth hormone that has been proposed as a therapy for intrauterine growth restriction. We previously demonstrated that a 1-week IGF-1 LR3 infusion into fetal sheep reduces in vivo and in vitro insulin secretion suggesting an intrinsic islet defect. Our objective herein was to determine whether this intrinsic islet defect was related to chronicity of exposure. We therefore tested the effects of a 90-min IGF-1 LR3 infusion on fetal glucose-stimulated insulin secretion (GSIS) and insulin secretion from isolated fetal islets. We first infused late gestation fetal sheep (n = 10) with either IGF-1 LR3 (IGF-1) or vehicle control (CON) and measured basal insulin secretion and in vivo GSIS utilizing a hyperglycemic clamp. We then isolated fetal islets immediately following a 90-min IGF-1 or CON in vivo infusion and exposed them to glucose or potassium chloride to measure in vitro insulin secretion (IGF-1, n = 6; CON, n = 6). Fetal plasma insulin concentrations decreased with IGF-1 LR3 infusion (P < 0.05), and insulin concentrations during the hyperglycemic clamp were 66% lower with IGF-1 LR3 infusion compared to CON (P < 0.0001). Insulin secretion in isolated fetal islets was not different based on infusion at the time of islet collection. Therefore, we speculate that while acute IGF-1 LR3 infusion may directly suppress insulin secretion, the fetal β-cell in vitro retains the ability to recover GSIS. This may have important implications when considering the long-term effects of treatment modalities for fetal growth restriction.
Intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) exerts a negative impact on developing cardiomyocytes and emerging evidence suggests activation of oxidative stress pathways plays a key role in this altered development. Here, we provided pregnant guinea pig sows with PQQ, an aromatic tricyclic o-quinone that functions as a redox cofactor antioxidant, during the last half of gestation as a potential antioxidant intervention for IUGR-associated cardiomyopathy.
Pregnant guinea pig sows were randomly assigned to receive PQQ or placebo at mid gestation and fetuses were identified as spontaneous IUGR (spIUGR) or normal growth (NG) near term yielding four cohorts: NG ± PQQ and spIUGR ± PQQ. Cross sections of fetal left and right ventricles were prepared and cardiomyocyte number, collagen deposition, proliferation (Ki67) and apoptosis (TUNEL) were analyzed.
Cardiomyocyte endowment was reduced in spIUGR fetal hearts when compared to NG; however, PQQ exerted a positive effect on cardiomyocyte number in spIUGR hearts. Cardiomyocytes undergoing proliferation and apoptosis were more common in spIUGR ventricles when compared with NG animals, which was significantly reduced with PQQ supplementation. Similarly, collagen deposition was increased in spIUGR ventricles and was partially rescued in PQQ-treated spIUGR animals.
The negative influence of spIUGR on cardiomyocyte number, apoptosis, and collagen deposition during parturition can be suppressed by antenatal administration of PQQ to pregnant sows. These data identify a novel therapeutic intervention for irreversible spIUGR-associated cardiomyopathy.
Why is birth so dangerous, even today, with modern medicine? Through historical anecdote and a contemporary case history we explore this question, discussing the process of birth and what can go wrong. By thinking about who is in control of labour – is it the mother or her fetus? – we think about how a couple might prepare for birth. The challenge posed by birth makes us look to human evolution for answers, and we describe the insight it gives into birth in some low-resource settings around the world. We tackle the question of the rising numbers of caesarean sections around the world and the possible consequences. Although it may be widely believed that a smaller baby would mean a less difficult birth, we go on to explore the risks of being small for the survival of the baby alongside new research revealing how the mother’s body limits the growth of her baby inside the womb. We discuss whether the growth of the fetus is set by the genes which the mother or the father have passed on, mother’s size, or her environment. This leads to how the fetus develops and what controls this, the focus of the next chapter.
Here we uncover the mysteries of the baby as it develops in the womb, discussing how fetal development is controlled. We give insights into aspects of pregnancy not widely known, from the fetus starting to breathe months before it is born, to the question of whether it sleeps – and dreams. We discuss the ways in which information about the mother’s life and her environment affect the baby’s development. Although birth may seem the first major milestone for a baby, we emphasise that many other milestones have been passed before that, inside the womb, out of sight but over which parents can have substantial influence. We give insights into new discoveries about how the organs of the fetal body develop in prediction of the world in which that individual ‘expects’ to live, and what happens when the prediction turns out to be wrong. The idea that the fetus is preparing for life after birth will get the reader thinking about the long-term consequences of the way a fetus develops. Each of us is unique as a result of our development – and nobody is perfect. Our unique development starts from the moment of conception, which introduces the next chapter on sex.
Ever wondered why your life and health can sometimes be so hard to control? Or why it seems so easy for other people? Mark Hanson and Lucy Green draw on their years of experience as scientists and educators to cut through the usual information on genetics and lifestyle to reveal the secrets of early development which start to make each of us unique, during our first 1,000 days from the moment of conception. Some surprising discoveries, based on little-known new research, show how events during our first 1,000 days make each of us who we are and explain how we control our bodies, processes that go way beyond just the genes which we inherited. Provoking new ways of thinking about being parents, this book empowers individuals and society to give the next generation the gift of a good start to life and future health.
Prenatal fetal monitoring allows for the detection of abnormal physiologic conditions in the fetus. The different available methods can detect abnormalities in utero-placental perfusion, as well as physiologic changes during and after in-utero fetal surgery. Basic antepartum fetal monitoring in viable fetuses has advanced over the years and now involves not only the nonstress test but more advanced methods which also take into account the ultrasound findings. Comprehension of the different fetal heart rate tracings allow for rapid intervention where necessary. Unfortunately, while many modes of surveillance exist, no single method can accurately identify a fetus that will progress to being stillbirth.
Prenatal myelomeningocele has rapidly become the most common in-utero surgery performed following the results of the multi-center, myelomeningocele study. In-utero surgery has greatly improved the prognosis of babies with spina bifida or myelomeningocele. The eligibility criteria for this surgery has also evolved as some centers are now operating on mothers with increased body mass index (BMI). A BMI greater than 40 was not incorporated into the original study. In addition, fetoscopic repair of the myelomeningocele is also being performed, allowing for a decrease in the risk for uterine dehiscence and also offering mothers the opportunity to have a vaginal delivery following in-utero surgery.
Cell phones operate with a wide range of frequency bands and emit radiofrequency-electromagnetic radiation (RF-EMR). Concern on the possible health hazards of RF-EMR has been growing in many countries because these RF-EMR pulses may be absorbed into the body cells, directly affecting them. There are some in vitro and in vivo animal studies related to the consequences of RF-EMR exposure from cell phones on embryo development and offspring. In addition, some studies have revealed that RF-EMR from cellular phone may lead to decrease in the rates of fertilization and embryo development, as well as the risk of the developmental anomalies, other studies have reported that it does not interfere with in vitro fertilization or intracytoplasmic sperm injection success rates, or the chromosomal aberration rate. Of course, it is unethical to study the effect of waves generated from cell phones on the forming human embryos. Conversely, other mammals have many similarities to humans in terms of anatomy, physiology and genetics. Therefore, in this review we focused on the existing literature evaluating the potential effects of RF-EMR on mammalian embryonic and fetal development.
Transformation of the maternal–fetal relationship into the mother–infant relationship remains an enigmatic process. This progression is considered using a Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) informed approach centered on domains of Arousal/Regulation, Positive/Negative Valence, and Social Processes. One hundred and fifty-eight maternal–fetal dyads began participation during pregnancy, maternal–infant dyads were followed at 6 months postpartum. Women exhibited stability in feelings of attachment to the fetus and infant, and in positive/negative appraisal of pregnancy and motherhood. Elicited maternal physiological arousal to emotionally evocative videos generated fetal heart rate variability and motor activity responses. Parasympathetic (i.e., heart rate variability) suppression in the fetus was associated with more positive and regulated infant social communication in the Face-to-Face Still Face protocol; suppression of maternal respiratory sinus arrhythmia was related to infant affect but in the opposite direction. Maternal ratings of infant temperament aligned with maternal antenatal affective valence. Attachment trajectories characterized by stability from antenatal to postnatal periods were most associated with maternal affective appraisal of pregnancy; shifts were influenced by infant characteristics and maternal sympathetic responsivity. Results illustrate how variation in arousal and regulatory systems of the pregnant woman and fetus operate within the context of maternal positive and negative valence systems to separately and jointly shape affiliation and temperament in early infancy.
We described a very rare case of aorto-pulmonary communication with right aortic arch and crossed pulmonary artery that cannot be placed in the typical anatomic classification of aortopulmonary window. At 23 weeks gestation, fetal echocardiography revealed a large tunnel-like communication connecting the great vessels proximal to the main pulmonary artery bifurcation, rather than a classic aortopulmonary window between the ascending aorta and the main pulmonary artery.
Stress during pregnancy has been widely studied and associated to different variables, usually with negative results for the health of the mother and the newborn, such as having a higher risk of suffering postpartum depression, premature birth, obstetrics complications or low birthweight, among others. However, there are not many lines of research that study the role that the sex of the baby plays on this specific stress and vice versa. Thus, the main objective was to analyse the relationship between the sex of the offspring and the stress of the mothers in the first trimester of pregnancy. In order to achieve this, 108 women had their biological stress measured (trough hair cortisol levels) and psychological stress evaluated (the Prenatal Distress Questionnaire (PSS), the Perceived Stress Scale (PDQ) and the Stress Vulnerability Inventory (IVE)). The results revealed significant differences in maternal hair cortisol levels in the first trimester based on the sex of the baby they had given birth to (t = −2.04; P < 0.05): the concentration of the hormone was higher if the baby was a girl (164.36:54.45-284.87 pg/mg) than if it was a boy (101.13:37.95-193.56 pg/mg). These findings show that the sex of the future baby could be conditioned, among many other variables, by the mother´s stress levels during conception and first weeks of pregnancy. Further research is needed in this area to support our findings.
Many accounts of the morality of abortion assume that early fetuses must all have or lack moral status in virtue of developmental features that they share. Our actual attitudes toward early fetuses don’t reflect this all-or-nothing assumption. If we start with the assumption that our attitudes toward fetuses are accurately tracking their value, then we need an account of fetal moral status that can explain why it is appropriate to love some fetuses but not others. I argue that a fetus can come to have moral claims on persons who have taken up the activity of person-creation.
Globally, the availability and formulations for the administration of cannabis are changing with decriminalization or legalization of recreational use in some jurisdictions, and the prescription of cannabis also occurring. These changes are likely to affect the prevalence of use, including by women of childbearing age. The effects of in utero and infant alcohol and tobacco exposure are well-documented, but the outcomes of cannabis exposure are less certain. The content of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive component of cannabis has progressively increased over several decades. This review explores the limited knowledge surrounding the epidemiology of gestational and postnatal cannabis exposure and implications for the mother–placenta–fetus/neonate triad. We examine cannabis’ effects from antenatal and lactation exposure on (a) pregnancy and perinatal outcomes, (b) placental health, and (c) longer term cardiometabolic and neurodevelopmental risks and outcomes. Though definitive outcomes are lacking, gestational cannabis has been associated with increased risk of other substance use during pregnancy; impaired placental blood flow; increased risk of small for gestational age births; and associated complications. Childhood and adolescent outcomes are sparsely assessed, with suggested outcomes including increased risk of depression and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Cardiometabolic implications of gestational cannabis use may include maternal fatty liver, obesity, insulin resistance, and increased risk of gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM), with potential consequences for the fetus. Clinical implications for pediatric practice were explored in a bid to understand any potential risk or impact on child health and development.
Advanced imaging techniques are enhancing research capacity focussed on the developmental origins of adult health and disease (DOHaD) hypothesis, and consequently increasing awareness of future health risks across various subareas of DOHaD research themes. Understanding how these advanced imaging techniques in animal models and human population studies can be both additively and synergistically used alongside traditional techniques in DOHaD-focussed laboratories is therefore of great interest. Global experts in advanced imaging techniques congregated at the advanced imaging workshop at the 2019 DOHaD World Congress in Melbourne, Australia. This review summarizes the presentations of new imaging modalities and novel applications to DOHaD research and discussions had by DOHaD researchers that are currently utilizing advanced imaging techniques including MRI, hyperpolarized MRI, ultrasound, and synchrotron-based techniques to aid their DOHaD research focus.
In Policing the Womb, Michele Goodwin explores how states abuse laws and infringe on rights to police women and their pregnancies. This book looks at the impact of these often arbitrary laws which can result in the punishment, incarceration, and humiliation of women, particularly poor women and women of color. Frequently based on unscientific claims of endangering a fetus, these laws allow extraordinary powers to state authorities over reproductive freedom and pregnancies. In this book, Michele Goodwin discusses real examples of women whose pregnancies have been controlled by the law and what has led to the United States being the deadliest country in the developed world for a woman to be pregnant.
The soluble fms-like tyrosine kinase factor 1 (sFlt-1) is a major contributor to antiangiogenesis during preeclampsia. However, little is known about the effects of sFlt-1 on fetal health. In this study we aim to evaluate the effects of the sFlt-1 concentration during pregnancy on fetal liver physiology. We used adenoviral gene delivery in Sprague-Dawley dams (seven females, 10 weeks old) during mid-gestation (gestational day 8) with adenovirus overexpressing sFlt-1, and age-matched controls (six females, 10 weeks old) with empty adenoviral virus in order to quantify the sFlt-1 concentrations in pregnant dams. Dams exposed to adenoviral sFlt-1 delivery were subdivided into a low (n=4) and high sFlt-1 (n=3) group based on host response to the virus. One-way analysis of variance showed that fetuses (five per dam) exposed to high sFlt-1 concentrations in utero show fetal growth restriction (1.84±0.043 g high sFlt-1 v. 2.32±0.036 g control; mean (M)±s.e.m.; P<0.001), without hypertension or proteinuria in the dams. In continuation, the microarray analysis of the fetal liver of the high sFlt-1 group showed significant enrichment of key genes for fatty acid metabolism and Ppara targets. In addition, using pyrosequencing, we found that the Ppara enrichment in the high sFlt-1 group is accompanied by decreased methylation of its promoter (1.89±0.097 mean % methylation in high sFlt-1 v. 2.26±0.095 mean % methylation in control, M±s.e.m., P<0.02). Our data show that high sFlt-1 concentrations during pregnancy have detrimental effects on the fatty acid metabolism genes and the Ppara targets in the fetal liver.
The ‘DOHaD’ literature argues that stressors encountered at age t ‘program’ individual health at age t+n, and that this programming appears strongest when t defines critical developmental periods including gestation. Accordingly, children of ill-nourished pregnant women suffer greater later life morbidity than do offspring of well-nourished mothers. The possibility that circumstances other than access to nutritious food drive both a mother’s diet and fetal development remains, however, a threat to the inference of programming in utero. Attempts to rule out this threat include tests of the hypothesis that birth cohorts in gestation during famines exhibit shorter life spans than other cohorts. The tests produce conflicting results attributed to confounding by autocorrelation, selective migration and introduction of modern medicine. We offer a test in which neither medicine nor migration nor autocorrelation could obscure the presumed effect. We apply time-series regression methods to the life span of Swedes born between 1751 and 1800 to test the hypothesis that cohorts exposed in utero to the Swedish Famine of 1773 lived shorter lives than expected from trends and other forms of autocorrelation. We use these 50 birth cohorts not only because they included those exposed to severe famine but also because they may well be the only human birth cohorts that completed life unaffected by selective migration and unaided by modern medicine and for which we know life span. We find that the cohort born in 1773 live 4.2 years longer than expected from trends over the last half of the 18th century.
Adverse intrauterine environment could serve as an important stimulus for postnatal altered health status and for increased susceptibility to long-term non-communicable diseases (NCDs). The notion is now recognized as the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease (DOHaD), which was first proposed by Sir David Barker. Since then, several scientific disciplines have strived to measure the magnitude of the early fetal programming and later risk of diseases. Pakistan, with striking figures of morbidity and mortality from NCDs, is currently tackling with double burden of diseases and requires planned efforts to counteract the threat of NCDs. Considering the growing needs and available evidences, Pakistan DOHaD Society was officially instigated in September 2016. The Society aims to explicitly address the association of life in utero with future health and disease and to endorse early screening and interventions to reduce the burden of NCDs, mental health issues and learning disorders along the life course. It has shown significant progress toward investigating the influence of adverse in utero environment such as diabetes, maternal under-nutrition and pre-eclampsia on fetal programming under two major research lines, that is, cardiovascular and cerebrovascular programming. The Society has been successful in disseminating its research findings through several esteemed international scientific conferences. Pakistan DOHaD Society encourages scientific community for collaborative research aimed at improving the quality of life during early childhood, adolescence and adulthood through provision of appropriate pre-pregnancy and antenatal interventions targeted to address at-risk in utero conditions.
Impaired β-cell development and insulin secretion are characteristic of intrauterine growth-restricted (IUGR) fetuses. In normally grown late gestation fetal sheep pancreatic β-cell numbers and insulin secretion are increased by 7–10 days of pulsatile hyperglycemia (PHG). Our objective was to determine if IUGR fetal sheep β-cell numbers and insulin secretion could also be increased by PHG or if IUGR fetal β-cells do not have the capacity to respond to PHG. Following chronic placental insufficiency producing IUGR in twin gestation pregnancies (n=7), fetuses were administered a PHG infusion, consisting of 60 min, high rate, pulsed infusions of dextrose three times a day with an additional continuous, low-rate infusion of dextrose to prevent a decrease in glucose concentrations between the pulses or a control saline infusion. PHG fetuses were compared with their twin IUGR fetus, which received a saline infusion for 7 days. The pulsed glucose infusion increased fetal arterial glucose concentrations an average of 83% during the infusion. Following the 7-day infusion, a square-wave fetal hyperglycemic clamp was performed in both groups to measure insulin secretion. The rate of increase in fetal insulin concentrations during the first 20 min of a square-wave hyperglycemic clamp was 44% faster in the PHG fetuses compared with saline fetuses (P<0.05). There were no differences in islet size, the insulin+ area of the pancreas and of the islets, and β-cell mass between groups (P>0.23). Chronic PHG increases early phase insulin secretion in response to acute hyperglycemia, indicating that IUGR fetal β-cells are functionally responsive to chronic PHG.
Intrauterine environmental factors can be associated with perinatal complications and long-term health outcomes although the underlying mechanisms remain poorly defined. Meconium formed exclusively in utero and passed naturally by a neonate may contain proteins which characterise the intrauterine environment. The aim of the study was proteomic analysis of the composition of meconium proteins and their classification by biological function. Proteomic techniques combining isoelectrofocussing fractionation and LC-MS/MS analysis were used to study the protein composition of a meconium sample obtained by pooling 50 serial meconium portions from 10 healthy full-term neonates. The proteins were classified by function based on the literature search for each protein in the PubMed database. A total of 946 proteins were identified in the meconium, including 430 proteins represented by two or more peptides. When the proteins were classified by their biological function the following were identified: immunoglobulin fragments and enzymatic, neutrophil-derived, structural and fetal intestine-specific proteins. Meconium is a rich source of proteins deposited in the fetal intestine during its development in utero. A better understanding of their specific biological functions in the intrauterine environment may help to identify these proteins which may serve as biomarkers associated with specific clinical conditions/diseases with the possible impact on the fetal development and further health consequences in infants, older children and adults.