Fish oil supplementation in pregnancy modifies neonatal progenitors at birth in infants at risk of atopy

Pediatr Res. 2005 Feb;57(2):276-81. doi: 10.1203/01.PDR.0000148279.72611.1D. Epub 2004 Dec 7.


Dietary n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) may represent a mode of allergy prevention. Cord blood (CB) CD34+ hemopoietic progenitors are altered in infants at risk of atopy. We therefore studied the effects of dietary n-3 PUFA supplementation during pregnancy on numbers and function of progenitors in neonates at high risk of atopy. In a double-blind study, atopic, pregnant women were randomized to receive fish oil capsules or placebo from 20 wk gestation until delivery. At birth, CB CD34+ cells were isolated and analyzed by flow cytometry for expression of cytokine (IL-5Ralpha, IL-3Ralpha, granulocyte/macrophage colony-stimulating factor Ralpha) or chemokine (CXCR4 and CCR3) receptors. CB cells were also cultured in methylcellulose assays for eosinophil/basophil colony-forming cells. At age 1 y, infants were clinically assessed for atopic symptoms and skin tests. Percentages of CB CD34+ cell numbers were higher after n-3 PUFA than placebo. Co-expression of cytokine or chemokine receptors on CD34 cells was not altered by n-3 PUFA supplementation. However, there were significantly more IL-5-responsive CB eosinophil/basophil colony forming units (Eo/B-CFU) in the fish oil, compared with the control, group. Overall, there was a positive association between CD34+ cells and IL-5-responsive Eo/B-CFU in CB and 1 y clinical outcomes, including atopic dermatitis and wheeze. Dietary n-3 PUFA supplementation during pregnancy in atopic mothers alters infant cord blood hemopoietic progenitor phenotype. This may have an impact on development of atopic disease.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, CD34 / biosynthesis
  • Cytokines / biosynthesis
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated / metabolism
  • Female
  • Fetal Blood* / immunology
  • Fish Oils*
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cells* / immunology
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity* / immunology
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Interleukin-5 / metabolism
  • Maternal-Fetal Exchange
  • Methylcellulose / metabolism
  • Odds Ratio
  • Phenotype
  • Placebos
  • Pregnancy
  • Risk
  • Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Time Factors


  • Antigens, CD34
  • Cytokines
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated
  • Fish Oils
  • Interleukin-5
  • Placebos
  • Methylcellulose