Oral Presentation The Annual Scientific Meeting of the Endocrine Society of Australia and the Society for Reproductive Biology 2013

Long term outcomes following fetal alcohol exposure (#172)

Karen Moritz 1
  1. University of Queensland, St Lucia, Qld, Australia

Epidemiological studies have demonstrated a strong association between in utero and early life events and adult onset disease resulting in the developmental programming of health and disease (DOHaD) hypothesis. Surprisingly, although alcohol consumption during pregnancy is widespread, alcohol has rarely been studied in the context of DOHaD.  Whilst chronic drinking of large amounts of alcohol can have teratogenic effects resulting in severe developmental abnormalities including fetal alcohol syndrome, the effects of moderate drinking and /or the consumption around the time of conception are less clear.

We have utilised two rat models to mimic common alcohol consumption patterns during pregnancy. Rats have been given a liquid diet containing 6% vol:vol ethanol throughout pregnancy (Low dose chronic ethanol exposure-LCE) or exposed to relatively high ethanol exposure around the time of conception (periconceptional ethanol exposure -PCE) from 4 days before until day 4 of pregnancy. We have examined effects on fetal growth as well as long term renal, cardiovascular and metabolic outcomes.  

The LCE resulted in a maternal blood alcohol of ~0.03%. This resulted in fetal growth restriction however offspring grew normally and were similar weight to controls up until 6 months. LCE offspring of both sexes had a reduced number of nephrons however blood pressure and basal renal function were normal.  Interestingly, offspring of the LCE group had impairments in cardiac function, cardiac hypertrophy as well as alterations in glucose homeostasis. The PCE raised the blood alcohol to ~0.15-0.2%. Fetuses in the PCE group were growth restricted in late gestation and in the placenta there were alterations in glucose transporters and increased deposition of glycogen. Male offspring of the PCE also had a reduced nephron endowment and a higher urine flow rate.  Both sexes from the PCE group showed a marked insulin resistance at 6 months of age and in males, insulin resistance and fat deposition was exacerbated by consumption of a western diet.

Our studies suggest that in addition to the well-known neurobehavioural effects, alcohol exposure during pregnancy has the potential to affect renal, cardiovascular and metabolic health.  This may contribute to long term “programming” of adult disease in offspring.