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Lancet. 1976 Feb 28;1(7957):452-3.

Essential fatty acids and fetal brain growth.


The fetal brain accumulates long-chain (C20 and 22) polyunsaturated fatty acids--arachidonic and docosahexaenoic--during cell division. De-novo synthesis of these acids does not occur and they are thought to be either directly derived from food or by metabolism from linoleic and linolenic acids, respectively. Administration of isotopically labelled linoleic and linolenic acids to pregnant guineapigs showed that only a small proportion of the label was converted to their respective long-chain polyunsaturated derivatives in the maternal liver. The proportion was increased within the phospholipids (structural lipids) by what appeared to be amultiple processing system which increased chain length and degree of polyunsaturation from maternal liver to placenta, fetal liver, and to fetal brain. Observations in man suggest a similar trend. The porportion of long-chain polyunsaturated acids increased in the phospholipids from maternal blood, cord blood, fetal liver, and fetal brain. These data show that the placenta and fetus are radically modifying the maternal phospholipids so as to achieve the high proportions of the C20 and C22 polyunsaturated fatty acids in the structural lipids of the developing brain.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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