Heart disease link to fetal hypoxia and oxidative stress

Adv Exp Med Biol. 2014;814:77-87. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4939-1031-1_7.


The quality of the intrauterine environment interacts with our genetic makeup to shape the risk of developing disease in later life. Fetal chronic hypoxia is a common complication of pregnancy. This chapter reviews how fetal chronic hypoxia programmes cardiac and endothelial dysfunction in the offspring in adult life and discusses the mechanisms via which this may occur. Using an integrative approach in large and small animal models at the in vivo, isolated organ, cellular and molecular levels, our programmes of work have raised the hypothesis that oxidative stress in the fetal heart and vasculature underlies the mechanism via which prenatal hypoxia programmes cardiovascular dysfunction in later life. Developmental hypoxia independent of changes in maternal nutrition promotes fetal growth restriction and induces changes in the cardiovascular, metabolic and endocrine systems of the adult offspring, which are normally associated with disease states during ageing. Treatment with antioxidants of animal pregnancies complicated with reduced oxygen delivery to the fetus prevents the alterations in fetal growth, and the cardiovascular, metabolic and endocrine dysfunction in the fetal and adult offspring. The work reviewed offers both insight into mechanisms and possible therapeutic targets for clinical intervention against the early origin of cardiometabolic disease in pregnancy complicated by fetal chronic hypoxia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Fetal Hypoxia / complications*
  • Fetal Hypoxia / metabolism
  • Fetal Hypoxia / physiopathology
  • Heart Diseases / etiology*
  • Heart Diseases / metabolism
  • Heart Diseases / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Oxidative Stress / physiology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / etiology*
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / metabolism
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / physiopathology