Increased erythropoiesis and elevated erythropoietin in infants born to diabetic mothers and in hyperinsulinemic rhesus fetuses

J Clin Invest. 1981 Mar;67(3):637-42. doi: 10.1172/JCI110078.


The pathogenesis of the increased erythrocytosis and extramedullary erythropoiesis observed in infants of diabetic mothers (IDM) has been obscure. In the present studies, IDM were found to have elevated umbilical plasma erythropoietin (Ep) concentrations by radioimmunoassay. 22 of 61 IDM (36%) had levels above the range of 28 nonasphyxiated, appropriately grown normal infants. In 16 controls and 20 IDM, plasma Ep correlated directly with plasma insulin (P less than 0.001, r = 0.73). To investigate this relationship further, a chronic rhesus model was studied with continuous fetal hyperinsulinemia for 21 d in utero in the last third of pregnancy. In five experimental fetuses, plasma insulin levels averaged 4,210 microU/ml at delivery, whereas plasma Ep was above the range of six controls. In addition, the experimental fetuses had elevated reticulocyte counts in umbilical cord blood. The mechanism for the increased plasma Ep associated with hyperinsulinemia in the fetus is unexplained but may be mediated by fetal hypoxia.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood Glucose / analysis
  • Carbohydrate Metabolism
  • Diabetes Mellitus / physiopathology*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Erythropoiesis*
  • Erythropoietin / blood*
  • Female
  • Fetal Blood / metabolism*
  • Hemoglobin A / analysis
  • Humans
  • Hyperinsulinism / blood
  • Insulin / blood
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy in Diabetics / physiopathology*


  • Blood Glucose
  • Insulin
  • Erythropoietin
  • Hemoglobin A