Researchers at the Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) Doernbecher Children’s Hospital suggest that, during pregnancy, obesity and a high-fat diet tend to compromise the many crucial, life-sustaining functions centralized in the fetal liver, which is responsible for creating and preserving a lifelong, healthy immune and hematopoietic systems.
The study, titled, “Maternal high-fat diet and obesity compromise fetal hematopoiesis,” published in the journal Molecular Metabolism, is the first to highlight the importance of sustaining fetal stem cells, and how a mother’s prenatal obesity and poor diet can can harm the unborn child, and possibly cause long-term effects as the child ages.
Daniel L. Marks, Ph.D., one of the researchers and a professor at the OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital said in a press release: “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.” Through examining a mouse model that was given a diet high in fat and simple sugars – a common feature of the nutritional intake of women of childbearing age – they were able to demonstrate that maternal over-nutrition remarkably reduced the size and optimum functioning of the fetal liver.
Additionally, thanks to a collaboration with Peter Kurre, a stem cell expert, they discovered that the changes that happen as a result of maternal obesity and a high-fat diet can significantly compromise the critical growth and expansion of fetal hematopoietic stem cells in the liver, causing a generalized threat to the immune system development.
Kurre stated in a press release: “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. These findings may provide broad context for the rise in immune disease and allergic disposition in children.”
About the OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital
The OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital is a nationwide model in pediatric care. Tens of thousands of children, each year, visit the hospital. About 200,000 discharges plus surgeries, transports and visits are registered each year. OHSU Doernbecher also provides care in 15 more locations, through 200 clinics that receive about 3,000 children.