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Physiology (Bethesda). 2006 Feb;21:29-37.

Intrauterine programming of physiological systems: causes and consequences.

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  • 1Department of Physiology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK.


The intrauterine conditions in which the mammalian fetus develops have an important role in regulating the function of its physiological systems later in life. Changes in the intrauterine availability of nutrients, oxygen, and hormones program tissue development and lead to abnormalities in adult cardiovascular and metabolic function in several species. The timing, duration, severity, and type of insult during development determines the specific physiological outcome. Intrauterine programming of physiological systems occurs at the gene, cell, tissue, organ, and system levels and causes permanent structural and functional changes, which can lead to overt disease, particularly with increasing age.

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