Study Reveals Obesity During Pregnancy Might Harm Fetus Stem Cells

imagesA new study on the negative impact of high-fat diet and obesity on stem cell systems in the fetal liver during pregnancy entitled “Maternal high-fat diet and obesity compromise fetal hematopoiesis” was recently published in the journal Molecular Metabolism by Ashley N. Kamimae-Lanning, first author of the study, and co-senior authors, Daniel L. Marks, M.D., Ph.D. and Peter Kurre, M.D., at the OHSU School of Medicine.

A significant increase in obesity levels over the past few decades has been associated with an increase in disease burden in obese individuals and their offspring. Strong epidemiological and experimental evidence points to the influence of maternal obesity and inadequate prenatal diet in maladaptive intrauterine cues of the developing fetus leading later in life to the predisposition to chronic disease. Several studies suggested that prenatal development is a phase of susceptibility for metabolic injury, fetal programming and postnatal organ dysfunction due to diet, however, no studies have assessed how the hematopoietic system under development is affected.

In this study, the research team revealed that a high-fat diet, a model of the western-style diet, and obesity during pregnancy impairs the blood-forming, or hematopoietic stem cell system, i.e. hematopoietic stem and progenitor cell (HSPC), in the fetal liver from which adaptive and innate immunity is generated.

“Our results offer a model for testing whether the effects of a high-fat diet and obesity can be repaired through dietary intervention, a key question when extrapolating this data to human populations,” said Dr. Daniel L. Marks, in a press release.

Dr. Marks and colleagues established a mouse model several years ago that mimics the high-fat, high-simple-sugar diet consumed normally by young women in fertile age. Dr. Marks and Dr. Peter Kurre found that maternal obesity, together with gestational HFD, impairs physiological expansion of fetal HSPCs which will compromises the development of the immune system. Notably, these effects are only partially reverted by changing the gestational dietary of the obese women.

“In light of the spreading western-style, high-fat diet and accompanying obesity epidemic, this study highlights the need to better understand the previous unrecognized susceptibility of the stem and progenitor cell system,” said Dr. Kurre. “These findings may provide broad context for the rise in immune disease and allergic disposition in children.”

This study was supported financially by Friends of Doernbecher and by the Oregon Clinical Translational Research Institute at OHSU.

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