Objective: To evaluate leptin values in placental cord blood of newborns with normal intrauterine growth after 30-42 weeks of gestation.
Design: Leptin, a protein encoded by the ob gene, plays an important role in the regulation of feeding behaviour and energy balance in rodents, primates and humans. The presence of leptin in human amniotic fluid and cord blood has recently been reported in human gestations at term and the possible role of leptin in human fetal growth suggested. However, little is known of leptin synthesis during human foetal development. Thus, the aim of our work was to measure leptin (RIA, Linco Research, Inc.) in placental cord blood of human newborns at different fetal ages.
Patients: One hundred and twenty-six healthy newborns with normal intrauterine growth were studied. Twenty-nine were preterm (15 males and 14 females; gestational age: 30-36 weeks) and 99 were at term (49 males and 48 females; gestational age: 37-42 weeks).
Results: Leptin values increase progressively throughout gestation from 1.30 +/- 0.53 ng/ml at 30 weeks of gestation to 7.98 +/- 4.96 ng/ml (mean +/- SD) at term, and correlate positively with birth weight (r = 0.56, p < 0. 005, n = 126), length (r = 0.37, p < 0.005, n = 126), BMI (r = 0.57, p < 0.005, n = 126), head circumference (r = 0.37, p < 0.005, n = 126), gestational age (r = 0.48, p < 0.005, n = 126) and placental weight (r = 0.38, p < 0.003, n = 59). Leptin values are statistically significantly lower (p < 0.005) preterm (median: 2.05 ng/ml; range: 0.7-8.3 ng/ml) than at term (median: 7.0 ng/ml; range: 1.1-28.1 ng/ml). Leptin values are also significantly (p < 0.005) higher in females (median: 7.2 ng/ml; range: 0.9-23.6 ng/ml, n = 62) than in males (median: 4.8 ng/ml; range: 0.7-28.1 ng/ml, n = 64), although there are no differences in weight (2,864 +/- 536 g in females vs. 2,937 +/- 744 g in males). Multiple regression analysis shows weight to be a positive sex-independent predictor of serum leptin values (p < 0.0005). Sex also proves to be a predictor of leptin, independently of weight and is higher in females than in males (p < 0.003).
Conclusion: Leptin is present in placental human cord blood after 30-42 weeks of gestation. Newborn weight and sex are independent predictors of leptin values.