Abnormal brain development in fetuses of obese women

February 11, 2013, Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine

In a study to be presented on February 15 at the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine's annual meeting, The Pregnancy Meeting, in San Francisco, California, researchers from Tufts Medical Center will present findings showing the effects of maternal obesity on a fetus, specifically in the development of the brain.

The study, conducted at the Mother Infant Research Institute (MIRI) at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, Mass., looked at the of 16 pregnant women, eight obese and eight lean, to see what effects maternal obesity had on fetal gene expression. Researchers have found that fetuses of had differences in gene expression as early as the second trimester, compared to fetuses of women who were a healthy weight.. Of particular note were patterns of gene expression suggestive of in fetuses of obese women.

During gestation, fetuses go through apoptosis, a developmental process of . However, fetuses of the obese women were observed to have decreased apoptosis, which is an important part of normal fetal . Dr. Diana Bianchi, senior author of the study and executive director of MIRI, describes apoptosis as a pruning process, clearing out space for new growth.

"Women won't be surprised to hear being obese while pregnant can lead to obesity in the child," said Dr. Andrea Edlow, lead author of the study and fellow in Maternal-Fetal Medicine at Tufts Medical Center. "But what might surprise them is the potential effect it has on the brain development of their ."

It is too early to know the implications of their findings, but maternal obesity is a rapidly growing problem in the U.S., with one in three women being obese at conception. The conclusion of the study points to the role of gene expression studies such as this one in helping elucidate possible mechanisms for recently-described postnatal neurodevelopmental abnormalities in children of obese women, including increased rates of autism and altered hypothalamic appetite regulation.

The research team hopes their findings and any future data will push women looking to become pregnant to be healthier, minimizing risk to their child.

Drs. Bianchi and Edlow, say the next step in their research will be to use a mouse model to examine the genes that are differentially expressed in of obese women, genes that may be involved in abnormal fetal neurodevelopment.

Explore further: Maternal obesity puts infants at risk

Related Stories

Maternal obesity puts infants at risk

April 30, 2011
Babies born to obese mothers are at risk for iron deficiency, which could affect infant brain development, according to a study to be presented Saturday, April 30, at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting ...

Obesity in pregnancy hinders women's ability to fight infection

May 1, 2011
Pregnant women who are obese are less able to fight infections than lean women, which could affect their baby's health after birth and later in life, according to research to be presented Sunday, May 1, at the Pediatric Academic ...

Slow-growing babies more likely in normal-weight women; Less common in obese pregnancies

April 27, 2012
Obesity during pregnancy puts women at higher risk of a multitude of challenges. But, according to a new study presented earlier this month at the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine annual convention, fetal growth ...

Inflammation may link obesity and adverse pregnancy outcomes

January 10, 2012
A number of different immunological mechanisms ensure the successful establishment and maintenance of pregnancy. Imbalance in these mechanisms is associated with adverse pregnancy outcomes. In a review published in Advances ...

Genetic analysis of amniotic fluid shows promise for monitoring fetal development

August 8, 2011
Researchers have demonstrated the feasibility of focused fetal gene expression analysis of target genes found in amniotic fluid using Standardized NanoArray PCR (SNAP) technology. This analysis could be used to monitor fetal ...

Recommended for you

Essure female sterilization device appears safe: study

January 23, 2018
(HealthDay)—Essure implants used in female sterilization have come under fire in recent years, with women reporting a wide array of problems to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Premature births linked to changes in mother's bacteria

January 23, 2018
Changes to the communities of microbes living in the reproductive tract of pregnant women could help to spot those at risk of giving birth prematurely.

Study shows how fetal infections may cause adult heart disease

January 23, 2018
Recent studies have shown that infants born prematurely have a higher risk of developing heart disease later in life. Now, a study led by researchers at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle shows that, ...

Rise in preterm births linked to clinical intervention

January 18, 2018
Research at the University of Adelaide shows preterm births in South Australia have increased by 40 percent over 28 years and early intervention by medical professionals has resulted in the majority of the increase.

New report calls into question effectiveness of pregnancy anti-nausea drug

January 17, 2018
Previously unpublished information from the clinical trial that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration relied on to approve the most commonly prescribed medicine for nausea in pregnancy indicates the drug is not effective, ...

New study finds 'baby brain' is real, but the cause remains mysterious

January 15, 2018
So-called "baby brain" refers to increased forgetfulness, inattention, and mental "fogginess" reported by four out of five pregnant women. These changes in brain function during pregnancy have long been recognised in midwifery ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.