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Cardiorenal Med. 2011;1(4):243-254. Epub 2011 Oct 12.

Prenatal Programming and Epigenetics in the Genesis of the Cardiorenal Syndrome.

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  • 1University of Missouri Diabetes Cardiovascular Center, Columbia, Mo., USA.


The presence of a group of interacting maladaptive factors, including hypertension, insulin resistance, metabolic dyslipidemia, obesity, and microalbuminuria and/or reduced renal function, collectively constitutes the cardiorenal metabolic syndrome (CRS). Nutritional and other environmental cues during fetal development can permanently affect the composition, homeostatic systems, and functions of multiple organs and systems; this process has been referred to as 'programming'. Since the original formulation of the notion that low birth weight is a proxy for 'prenatal programming' of adult hypertension and cardiovascular disease, evidence has also emerged for programming of kidney disease, insulin resistance, obesity, metabolic dyslipidemia, and other chronic diseases. The programming concept was initially predicated on the notion that in utero growth restriction due to famine was responsible for increased hypertension, and cardiovascular and renal diseases. On the other hand, we are now more commonly exposed to increasing rates of maternal obesity. The current review will discuss the overarching role of maternal overnutrition, as well as fetal undernutrition, in epigenetic programming in relation to the pathogenesis of the CRS in children and adults.

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