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In this study, the research team have uncovered more about the placenta's role in the future health of a child. Pixabay

Researchers have discovered a direct association between placental function in pregnant women and future metabolic disorders in children and adults.

The study, published in the journal Diabetes, suggests that the discovery could lead to earlier intervention and diagnosis of disease.


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“We’ve known for some time that many major diseases in adults like diabetes and cardiovascular disease are at least partly caused by problems during foetal life,” said researcher Thomas Jansson, Professor at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.

“For example, it has been shown that 50 per cent of all Type-2 diabetes in young adults are caused by exposure to the intrauterine environment in pregnant women with obesity and/or gestational diabetes,” Jansson added.

In this study, the research team have uncovered more about the placenta’s role in the future health of a child.

“We are the first to discover associations between placental function and blood pressure, body fat and triglyceride levels in children between the ages of 4-6 years old. These markers often signal risks for future heart disease, diabetes and obesity,” the researcher said.

For the study, the team involved 1,410 healthy pregnant women between 2010-2014. The children are now 4-6-years-old.

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A healthy intrauterine environment is largely determined by the placenta, which nourishes the fetus and protects it against the mother’s immune system. Changes in the placenta like inflammation or insulin signalling, the researchers said, can set the stage for later disease.

The study revealed that the placental IGF-1 receptor protein was associated with serum triglycerides in children which could lead to obesity or diabetes later. Other proteins in the placenta were shown to have associations with increased fat tissue on the arms and thighs of children. (IANS)


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