18 August 2011
Maternal fat found to handicap embryo development
Exposing eggs to high levels of the saturated fatty acids commonly found in the ovaries of obese women compromises the development of the embryo, say researchers from Antwerp, Hull, and Madrid. Specifically, embryos resulting from eggs exposed to high levels of fatty acids had fewer cells, altered gene expression and altered metabolic activity, all indicators of reduced viability. The researchers, reporting their findings in the journal PLoS ONE , say the findings are also of importance to women with Type II diabetes.
Although carried out using eggs from cows, the findings could explain why women suffering from disorders like obesity and diabetes struggle to conceive. Patients in this group tend to metabolize more of their stored fat, resulting in higher levels of fatty acids being present within the ovary, which research has already shown to be toxic for the growing eggs before ovulation.
"In cows we can induce very similar metabolic disorders leading to reduced fertility in these animals and compromised egg quality in particular. This is one of the reasons that bovine eggs are a very interesting model for human reproductive research," said Professor Jo Leroy, from the University of Antwerp.
One of the key indicators of embryo viability is metabolic activity, calculated through analysis of what the embryo consumes from its environment and what it releases back out. "Where eggs were exposed to high levels of fatty acids, the resulting embryos showed increased amino acid metabolism and altered consumption of oxygen, glucose and lactate - all of which indicates impaired metabolic regulation and reduced viability," explained Dr Roger Sturmey, from the University of Hull.
"Our findings add further weight to the public health recommendations which emphasize the importance of women being a healthy weight before starting a pregnancy," the researchers concluded.
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Source: University of Hull