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Pediatr Res. 2006 Jan;59(1):116-20. Epub 2005 Dec 2.

Impact of hypoxia on early chick embryo growth and cardiovascular function.

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Department of Pediatrics, Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15213, USA.


Oxygen tension is a critical factor for appropriate embryonic and fetal development. Chronic hypoxia exposure alters cardiovascular (CV) function and structure in the late fetus and newborn, yet the immature myocardium is considered to be less sensitive to hypoxia than the mature heart. We tested the hypothesis that hypoxia during the period of primary CV morphogenesis impairs immature embryonic CV function and embryo growth. We incubated fertile white Leghorn chick embryos in 15% oxygen (hypoxia) or 21% oxygen (control) until Hamburger-Hamilton stage 21 (3.5 d). We assessed in ovo viability and dysmorphic features and then measured ventricular pressure and dimensions and dorsal aortic arterial impedance at stage 21. Chronic hypoxia decreased viability and embryonic wet weight. Chronic hypoxia did not alter heart rate or the ventricular diastolic indices of end-diastolic pressure, maximum ventricular -dP/dt, or tau. Chronic hypoxia decreased maximum ventricular +dP/dt and peak pressure, increased ventricular end-systolic volume, and decreased ventricular ejection fraction, consistent with depressed systolic function. Arterial afterload (peripheral resistance) increased and both dorsal aortic SV and steady-state hydraulic power decreased in response to hypoxia. Thus, reduced oxygen tension during early cardiac development depresses ventricular function, increases ventricular impedance (afterload), delays growth, and decreases embryo survival, suggesting that a critical threshold of oxygen tension is required to support morphogenesis and cardiovascular function in the early embryo.

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