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The Impact of Intermittent Umbilical Cord Occlusions on the Inflammatory Response in Pre-Term Fetal Sheep
Published: Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Author: Andrew P. Prout et al.

by Andrew P. Prout, Martin G. Frasch, Ruud Veldhuizen, Rob Hammond, Brad Matushewski, Bryan S. Richardson

Fetal hypoxic episodes may occur antepartum with the potential to induce systemic and cerebral inflammatory responses thereby contributing to brain injury. We hypothesized that intermittent umbilical cord occlusions (UCOs) of sufficient severity but without cumulative acidosis will lead to a fetal inflammatory response. Thirty-one chronically instrumented fetal sheep at ~0.85 of gestation underwent four consecutive days of hourly UCOs from one to three minutes duration for six hours each day. Maternal and fetal blood samples were taken for blood gases/pH and plasma interleukin (IL)-1ß and IL-6 levels. Animals were euthanized at the end of experimental study with brain tissue processed for subsequent counting of microglia and mast cells. Intermittent UCOs resulted in transitory fetal hypoxemia with associated acidemia which progressively worsened the longer umbilical blood flow was occluded, but with no cumulative blood gas or pH changes over the four days of study. Fetal arterial IL-1ß and IL-6 values showed no significant change regardless of the severity of the UCOs, nor was there any evident impact on the microglia and mast cell counts for any of the brain regions studied. Accordingly, intermittent UCOs of up to three minutes duration with severe, but limited fetal hypoxemia and no cumulative acidemia, do not result in either a systemic or brain inflammatory response in the pre-term ovine fetus. However, fetal IL-1B and IL-6 values were found to be well correlated with corresponding maternal values supporting the placenta as a primary source for these cytokines with related secretion into both circulations. Female fetuses were also found to have higher IL-1ß levels than males, indicating that gender may impact on the fetal inflammatory response to various stimuli.