Abnormal brain development in fetuses of obese women

February 11, 2013

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

Negative birth outcomes linked to air pollution exposure early in pregnancy, study finds

July 27, 2017
Exposure to air pollution early in a pregnancy could increase risk for preterm birth and low birth weight, according to a study led by researchers at NYU School of Medicine, and published on July 27 in Environmental Health ...

Study shows a significant ongoing decline in sperm counts of Western men

July 25, 2017
In the first systematic review and meta-analysis of trends in sperm count, researchers from the Hebrew University-Hadassah Braun School of Public Health and Community Medicine and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai ...

Women exposed to smoke while in womb more likely to miscarry

July 13, 2017
Women exposed to cigarette smoke while in their mothers' wombs are more likely to experience miscarriage as adults, according to new research from the University of Aberdeen.

Lack of a hormone in pregnant mice linked to preeclampsia

June 30, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—A team of researchers from Singapore, the Netherlands and Turkey has isolated a hormone in pregnant mice that appears to be associated with preeclampsia—a pregnancy-related condition characterized by ...

Aspirin reduces risk of pre-eclampsia in pregnant women

June 28, 2017
Taking a low-dose aspirin before bed can reduce the risk of pre-eclampsia, which can cause premature birth and, in extreme cases, maternal and foetal death.

The biology of uterine fluid: How it informs the fetus of mom's world

June 22, 2017
A developing fetus bathes in a mixture of cellular secretions and proteins unique to its mother's uterus. Before fertilization, the pH of uterine fluid helps create a conducive environment for sperm migration, and afterward, ...

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.