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New map reveals how pregnancy affects organ interactions

  • 2 Min To Read
  • 3 months ago

Scientists have made a breakthrough in understanding the metabolic changes that occur in different parts of the body during pregnancy. This research could provide insights into pregnancy-related conditions such as pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes.

Typically, different bodily systems exchange molecular nutrients, known as metabolites, in a relatively even manner. However, during pregnancy, tissues throughout the body undergo significant changes. For example, the heart increases its pumping volume by up to 40%, while the thymus, involved in the immune system, shrinks to prevent rejection of the fetus.

To study the role of metabolites in pregnancy, scientists collected tissue samples from 12 crab-eating macaques at different stages of pregnancy and analyzed them for metabolites. They found that the exchange of metabolites between different parts of the body was "reprogrammed dramatically" during pregnancy. For instance, in the first trimester, the uterus decreased its exchanges with the heart and skeletal muscles and began coupling with the developing placenta.

The researchers also found that deviations from normal metabolic flow during pregnancy could lead to certain conditions. In an experiment involving pregnant women, they observed a "huge drop" in the metabolite corticosterone among those with pre-eclampsia, which resulted in pre-eclampsia-like inflammation in laboratory tests. Another key metabolite, palmitoylcarnitine, appears to play a role in gestational diabetes.

Based on their findings, the researchers have developed an "atlas" of 91 metabolites that consistently change in the tissues of pregnant macaques. This provides a framework for understanding the role of metabolites in regulating health during human pregnancy and could potentially lead to new therapeutics.

Previous studies have focused on metabolic changes in pregnant rats and mice, but the researchers believe that crab-eating macaques, despite their shorter pregnancies, serve as reliable models for human reproduction and pregnancy-related conditions.

Overall, this research sheds light on the complex metabolic changes that occur during pregnancy and their potential implications for maternal health. Further research in this area could lead to improved understanding and treatment of pregnancy-related conditions.

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