Research has shown that mice who eat unhealthily during pregnancy will cause their babies to have heart problems.
In a recent study carried out in mice, maternal mice fed unhealthy foods before and during pregnancy gave birth to litters of mice with unhealthy hearts. Surprisingly, these health problems last for at least three generations, even when mice are born not obese and have a standard diet of mice.
The team from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis said their findings show the importance of maintaining a healthy weight of pregnant women both before pregnancy and pregnancy.
The researchers found that most of the litter born from obese maternal mice had an increase in the weight of the left ventricle, which is responsible for pumping blood out of the heart. In humans, excessive left ventricular weight is often a sign of a weak heart muscle, which can lead to heart failure. In addition, the team found that heart problems are less obvious in the next generation.
Research from the University of Washington School of Medicine in St. Louis showed that obese maternal mice ate a high-fat, high-sugar diet when their babies were born with heart disease.
Dr Abhinav Diwan, associate professor of medicine at the University of Washington, one of the study’s authors, said: “The surprising thing is that cardiac abnormalities seem to disappear over generations. In addition, there are differences in the hearts of men and women that we cannot explain. “This research in many ways has raised more questions than the answers to the problems we set and we plan to continue to study these mice to help answer them.”
To see if the problem is due to obese maternal mice or their reproductive system, the team implanted fertilized eggs from obese mice into normal-weight mice. However, these young mice have the same heart problems, indicating that health problems are from eggs, not from environmental factors.
The team also found that these heart problems not only passed on from mother to child.
The researchers found that obese male mice, mating with female mice fed the standard diet, also produced litters of mice with the same heart problems. The changes are specific to mitochondria, small “energy stations”, fueling cells.
According to the US Mitochondrial Organization, this is surprising because, at least in humans, all maternal genetic diseases are mitochondrial disorders, since mitochondrial DNA is only transmitted from the mother. .
“We know that obesity in mother mice increases the risk of heart problems for pups,” said Dr. Kelle Moley, a professor of obstetrics at the University of Washington. We have now demonstrated that obese pups also make their later generations suffer from similar problems. We have to start studying the changes in internal DNA of both eggs and sperm to ensure we understand all the causal factors. ”
The team believes that mitochondrial problems with the heart are caused by epigenetic changes in DNA in the eggs of obese maternal mice. Epigenetic genetics (epigenetic) is a study of genetic characteristics carried outside the genome. They believe that these changes are then introduced into the cells of all females, male or female.
Researchers are beginning to plan new studies, but stress that women must have a healthy lifestyle before and during pregnancy.