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Semin Perinatol. 2008 Dec;32(6):380-6. doi: 10.1053/j.semperi.2008.09.002.

The changing role of maternal thyroid hormone in fetal brain development.

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Instituto de Investigaciones Biomédicas Alberto Sols, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas and Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Madrid, Spain.


This review briefly summarizes: (1) the changes in maternal thyroid function that are imposed by the presence of the fetus and the high concentrations of human chorionic gonadotropin essential for the maintenance of the pregnancy, which result in high first trimester free thyroxine and triiodothyronine, requiring doubling of the iodine intake; (2) the changes in the fetal compartment up to midgestation, which result in increasing concentrations of triiodothyronine in the cerebral cortex generated locally from thyroxine by high activities of type 2 iodothyronine deiodinase; (3) the important role of the maternal contribution of thyroxine to the fetal circulation after onset of secretion of hormones by the fetal thyroid; and (4) the consequences of the interruption of the maternal supply of thyroid hormones that occur with prematurity. Efforts to devise appropriate strategies to avoid or shorten the postnatal hypothyroxinemia of infants born prematurely may well result in fewer and less severe neurodevelopmental deficits.

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