Objective: Obstructive sleep apnea, a breathing disorder caused by the repetitive collapse of the upper airway during sleep, results in a state of chronic intermittent hypoxia (CIH). Although the etiology and consequences of CIH are extensively investigated in the adult, the developmental ramifications of this disease process are unknown.
Design: This study was done to investigate the effect of CIH during gestation on offspring development. Pregnant female Spraque-Dawley rats were exposed to daily CIH throughout the gestational period.
Results: Postnatal day-1 offspring from CIH mothers were asymmetrically growth restricted, with decreased body weights and elevated brain-weight:liver-weight ratios. Furthermore, CIH newborns had elevated heart- and brain-weight:body weight ratios, and decreased liver-weight:body weight ratios. By adulthood, body weights of growth restricted offspring were significantly greater, as were the liver-weight:body weight ratios. CIH offspring also had greater body fat deposition, were hyperglycemic and had elevated plasma levels of insulin during development into adults.
Conclusion: These data suggest that alteration of the maternal intrauterine environment by gestational CIH effects the long-term development of the offspring and increases the risk of the offspring to metabolic diseases in adulthood.
Keywords: chronic intermittent hypoxia; diabetes; fetal programming; intrauterine growth restriction; liver metabolism.
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