Neurodevelopmental Effects of Undernutrition and Placental Underperfusion in Fetal Growth Restriction Rabbit Models

Fetal Diagn Ther. 2017;42(3):189-197. doi: 10.1159/000454859. Epub 2017 Jan 5.


Introduction: Chronic reduction of oxygen and nutrient delivery to the fetus has been related to neurodevelopmental problems. Placental underperfusion induces a significant reduction in oxygen and nutrient delivery, whereas maternal undernutrition causes mainly nutrient deficiency. A comparison of the neurodevelopmental effects of both situations in pregnant rabbits was performed.

Materials and methods: The placental underperfusion model was induced after uteroplacental vessel ligation at 25 days of pregnancy. The undernutrition model was induced after a reduction of 70% of the basal maternal intake at 22 days of pregnancy. Neurobehavioral tests were applied in the derived offspring at the neonatal period and over the long term. Structural brain differences were evaluated by brain networks obtained from diffusion magnetic resonance imaging.

Results: Birth weight was significantly lower in both cases. However, stillbirth was only increased in the placental underperfusion model. Cases from both models presented poorer neurobehavioral performance and network infrastructure, being more pronounced in the placental underperfusion model.

Discussion: Prenatal insults during the last third of gestation resulted in functional and structural disturbances. The degree of neurodevelopmental impairment and its association with structural brain reorganization seemed to be related to the type of the prenatal insult, showing stronger effects in the placental underperfusion model.

Keywords: Animal model; Behavior; Brain networks; Fetal growth restriction; Placental insufficiency; Undernutrition.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Birth Weight
  • Female
  • Fetal Development*
  • Fetal Growth Retardation / etiology
  • Fetal Growth Retardation / physiopathology*
  • Malnutrition*
  • Maternal Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Neurodevelopmental Disorders / etiology
  • Placental Insufficiency*
  • Pregnancy
  • Rabbits