Dr Georgia Papacleovoulou, first author of the study from Imperial College London, explains: "This is the first evidence that cholestasis during pregnancy can have long-term effects on the health of the baby as it grows into adulthood."
Both the human and mouse studies revealed an increase in fats and excessive cholesterol transport in placentas from mothers with cholestasis compared with healthy mothers, consistent with a disruption in the metabolism of fats. The researchers propose that this shift in the nutrients supplied by the mother is likely to affect the energy balance in the unborn baby, something that could continue after the baby is born, resulting in an altered metabolism in adult life that could give rise to diseases such as obesity and diabetes.
Using another mouse model, the researchers showed that feeding bile salts to mice during pregnancy resulted in chemical changes to the DNA of the offspring, or epigenetic changes.
Professor Catherine Williamson, lead author of the study from Imperial College London and King's College London, said: "We don't yet know the exact mechanisms of how the increase in bile salts in the mothers' blood programs the unborn baby towards metabolic disease but it seems likely that epigenetics plays a role. We need to do more experiments to work out how these chemical changes to the DNA of the baby affect its ability to metabolise fats."
Dr Alison Cave, Head of Cellular, Developmental and Physiological Sciences at the Wellcome Trust, said: "We're in the grips of an epidemic of obesity and diabetes and this study adds to the increasing evidence which suggests that it may not be explained by unhealthy diets an
|Contact: Jen Middleton|