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Diabetes Obes Metab. 2007 Nov;9 Suppl 2:196-209.

Intrauterine programming of the endocrine pancreas.

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Laboratory of Cell Biology, Institute of Life Sciences, Catholic University of Louvain, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium.


Epidemiological studies have revealed strong relationships between poor foetal growth and subsequent development of the metabolic syndrome. Persisting effects of early malnutrition become translated into pathology, thereby determine chronic risk for developing glucose intolerance and diabetes. These epidemiological observations identify the phenomena of foetal programming without explaining the underlying mechanisms that establish the causal link. Animal models have been established and studies have demonstrated that reduction in the availability of nutrients during foetal development programs the endocrine pancreas and insulin-sensitive tissues. Whatever the type of foetal malnutrition, whether there are not enough calories or protein in food or after placental deficiency, malnourished pups are born with a defect in their beta-cell population that will never completely recover, and insulin-sensitive tissues will be definitively altered. Despite the similar endpoint, different cellular and physiological mechanisms are proposed. Hormones operative during foetal life like insulin itself, insulin-like growth factors and glucocorticoids, as well as specific molecules like taurine, or islet vascularization were implicated as possible factors amplifying the defect. The molecular mechanisms responsible for intrauterine programming of the beta cells are still elusive, but two hypotheses recently emerged: the first one implies programming of mitochondria and the second, epigenetic regulation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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