Study Looks At Metabolic Changes During Pregnancy

A new study looks to unlock the mysteries of pregnancy’s impact on the female body. By profiling metabolic activity in various organs of pregnant monkeys, the research reveals unexpected changes in tissues like skin, challenging traditional views of pregnancy’s metabolic scope.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Chinese researchers delve into metabolic activity in pregnant monkeys to uncover surprising changes in various organs.
  2. The study, published in Cell, suggests a broader understanding of pregnancy-induced metabolic adaptations beyond traditional organs.
  3. The study identifies 91 metabolites impacting major organs and unexpected tissues, offering insights into the complexity of pregnancy.

Close-up of pregnant woman sitting in sofa with her hands at belly
Pregnancy is a remarkable process that brings about significant changes in a woman’s body as it supports the growth of a fetus and placenta. However, we still have much to learn about the chemical and hormonal shifts that affect maternal organs during this time. A team of researchers in China has made progress in filling this knowledge gap by studying metabolic activity in various organs of pregnant monkeys. The results revealed surprising changes in organs not typically associated with pregnancy, such as the skin. By gaining a better understanding of these processes, the findings could contribute to our understanding of conditions like preeclampsia and gestational diabetes, potentially leading to improved diagnostics and treatments.

The study’s significance hasn’t gone unnoticed by experts. Yuyu Niu, a developmental biologist at Kunming University of Science and Technology, praises it as a substantial contribution to reproductive biology and female health research.

Studying the metabolome—the collection of molecules involved in regulating the body’s biochemical processes—has been challenging. Previous studies on human pregnancies focused on blood and urine samples without linking them directly to specific organs. Meanwhile, studying pregnant rodents doesn’t provide sufficient insight due to differences from primate pregnancies. To overcome these limitations, the researchers turned to cynomolgus monkeys and obtained samples from 23 different tissues at various stages of pregnancy.
Using liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry, which identifies and measures metabolites in samples, the team discovered 91 metabolites that play potential roles in adapting to pregnancy. Surprisingly, these metabolite levels changed significantly not only in major metabolic organs like the liver and heart but also in unexpected tissues like certain muscles and skin. This finding aligns with personal experiences reported by pregnant women who notice changes beyond their reproductive organs.

It’s important to note that the study only examined three time points during the monkeys’ 165-day gestation period. However, despite this limitation, the results hold promise for understanding disorders like preeclampsia, a condition characterized by high blood pressure during pregnancy that can have serious consequences. The researchers found elevated levels of the metabolite corticosterone in the placenta of pregnant monkeys and demonstrated its role in regulating placental function using human stem cells. Furthermore, they observed lower levels of corticosterone in pregnant women with preeclampsia. This discovery could potentially lead to improved diagnosis of the condition.

The connection between corticosterone deficiency and preeclampsia is intriguing, raising further interest among experts like Mads Melbye, a physician-epidemiologist who headed a previous study on metabolites in pregnant women.

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Lisa Arneill
Founder of Growing Your Baby and World Traveled Family. Canadian mom of 2 boys, photo addict, lover of bulldogs, and museumgoer. Always looking for our next vacation spot!

About the author

Lisa Arneill

Founder of Growing Your Baby and World Traveled Family. Canadian mom of 2 boys, photo addict, lover of bulldogs, and museumgoer. Always looking for our next vacation spot!

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