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Am J Physiol. 1997 Jan;272(1 Pt 1):L95-105.

Effects of mechanical factors on growth and maturation of the lung in fetal sheep.

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  • 1Cardiovascular Research Institute, University of California, San Francisco 94143, USA.


Previous fetal studies indicated that endocrine factors control surfactant maturation, whereas mechanical forces affect lung growth, but not surfactant. We altered mechanical forces in fetal sheep lungs at 100-108 days gestation by tracheal ligation (TL, n = 15, 7 successful studies) to accelerate lung growth, transection of cervical spinal cord (TCSC, n = 17, 6 successful studies) to produce lung hypoplasia, or sham operation (n = 11, 6 successful studies). The reasons for the high mortality rates are not known. At delivery (130-142 days), groups were similar in gestational age, weight, and cortisol. Effects on lung growth were similar to, but effects on surfactant differed from, previous reports. TL increased lung growth but decreased saturated phosphatidylcholine (SatPC) and surfactant protein (SP)A and apparently decreased SP-B and relative numbers of alveolar type II cells (based on immunohistochemical studies of 1 animal in each group); TCSC had opposite effects. In contrast to a previous study (J. A. Kitterman, G. C. Liggins, G. A. Campos, J. A. Clements, C. S. Forster, C. H. Lee, and R. K. Creasy, J. Appl. Physiol, 51: 384-390, 1981), SatPC did not correlate with cortisol. We conclude that altering mechanical forces in fetal lung affects not only lung growth but also surfactant maturation and possibly alveolar epithelial differentiation and disturbs the normal correlation between cortisol and surfactant. Associated changes in insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I; increased by TL, P = 0.003) suggest a possible role for IGF-I in these effects.

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