Abnormal Development - Fetal Origins Hypothesis
Maternal derived abnormalities relate to lifestyle, environment and nutrition and while some of these directly effect embryonic development, there is also growing evidence that some effects are more subtle and relate to later life health events. This theory is based on the early statistical analysis carried out by Barker of low birth weight data collected in the early 1900's in the south east of England which he then compared with these same babies later health outcomes. The theory was therefore originally called the "Barker Hypothesis" and has recently been renamed as "fetal origins" or "programming".
There have also been some issues relating to how the data is both collected and analyzed. (see Lucas reference)
Some Recent Findings
There were some key papers that initially studied UK birth weight data by Barker that gave rise to this area of research.
- Barker DJ. The fetal and infant origins of adult disease. BMJ. 1990 Nov 17;301(6761):1111.
- Barker DJ, Martyn CN. The maternal and fetal origins of cardiovascular disease. J Epidemiol Community Health. 1992 Feb;46(1):8-11.
- Barker DJ. Fetal nutrition and cardiovascular disease in later life. Br Med Bull. 1997 Jan;53(1):96-108.
Environmental influences originate in utero
Hypothesis proposes influences cause permanent changes in embryo/fetus, low birth weight, predisposition to chronic disease in adult life.
Malnutrition in utero affects brain development, "low birth weight" or intrauterine growth restricted babies fare less well on measures of mental development in later life studies compared low birth weight babies (<2500 g) with controls, show impairment in neuro developmental tests up to age 11
Intelligence is a combination of genetic and environmental influences (relative contributions of which are not yet established) and may vary over lifespan.
Modified Text from: Arch Dis Child 2001;85:189-196
Resources available from online textbooks freely available at National Library of Medicine (USA), National Center for Biotechnology Information.
Health Services/Technology Assessment Text (HSTAT)
- Premature infant
- An infant born before 37 weeks of estimated gestational age
- Low birth weight
- Birth weight < 2,500 g (5 lb, 8 oz)
- Very low birth weight
- Birth weight < 1,500 g (3 lb, 5 oz)
- Extremely low birth weight
- Birth weight < 1,000 g (2 lb, 3 oz)
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Cite this page: Hill, M.A. (2021, November 29) Embryology Abnormal Development - Fetal Origins Hypothesis. Retrieved from https://embryology.med.unsw.edu.au/embryology/index.php/Abnormal_Development_-_Fetal_Origins_Hypothesis
- © Dr Mark Hill 2021, UNSW Embryology ISBN: 978 0 7334 2609 4 - UNSW CRICOS Provider Code No. 00098G