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Study shows how diabetes developed in pregnancy might program baby’s stem cells for health issues in adulthood

Researchers have come to suspect that women who contract gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) during pregnancy pass along to their offspring a preponderance for type 2 diabetes and other health complications while the child is still in the womb. A new study released today in STEM CELLS Translational Medicine further lends credence to that idea.

GDM, a type of diabetes that happens only during pregnancy, results from hormones released by the placenta that prevents the body from using insulin effectively. It affects about 6 to 15 percent of all pregnant women. This condition is associated with short-term adverse obstetric and perinatal complications, and with long-term health consequences for offspring.

“Recent studies revealed the significant impact of GDM on human umbilical cord-derived stromal cells,” said Sonia Fernández-Veledo, Ph.D. She and her University Hospital of Tarragona Joan XXIII colleague Ana Megía, M.D., Ph.D., were senior authors of the SCTM study. “Our investigation sought to determine whether GDM might leave an imprint in fetal precursor cells found in the amniotic membrane and, if so, whether it might be related to adverse outcomes in offspring including diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease.”

The study involved 18 pregnant women scheduled for caesarean delivery; half had GDM and half had normal glucose tolerance (as the control). The researchers isolated amniotic mesenchymal stem cells (AMSCs) and resident macrophages (a type of white blood cell that plays a key role in the body’s immune response to foreign invaders) from the two groups, then analyzed and correlated the AMSCs’ functional characteristics with the anthropometry and clinical parameters from both mother and offspring.

“The results provided evidence that maternal metabolic derangements during gestation disturb the biological properties of the AMSCs,” Dr. Megía reported. “Of note, these results suggest that GDM environment could program stem cells and subsequently put the offspring at risk for metabolic dysfunction later in life.”

Dr. Fernández-Veledo added, “Our study also tells us that AMSCs might be a powerful tool for the indirect study of fetal cells in the context of hyperglycemia and insulin resistance, opening the possibility of new predictor or diagnostic approaches.”

“This study using amniotic membrane stem cells to show how gestational diabetes can impact the fetus is certainly interesting,” said Anthony Atala, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of STEM CELLS Translational Medicine and director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine. “The findings are promising and open the opportunity for the development of a translational medicine approach that could reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes developing.”

The full article, “Gestational diabetes impacts fetal precursor cell responses with potential consequences for offspring,” can be accessed at

About STEM CELLS Translational Medicine: STEM CELLS Translational Medicine (SCTM), co-published by AlphaMed Press and Wiley, is a monthly peer-reviewed publication dedicated to significantly advancing the clinical utilization of stem cell molecular and cellular biology. By bridging stem cell research and clinical trials, SCTM will help move applications of these critical investigations closer to accepted best practices. SCTM is the official journal partner of Regenerative Medicine Foundation.

About AlphaMed Press: Established in 1983, AlphaMed Press with offices in Durham, NC, San Francisco, CA, and Belfast, Northern Ireland, publishes two other internationally renowned peer-reviewed journals: STEM CELLS® (, celebrating its 37th year, is the world's first journal devoted to this fast paced field of research. The Oncologist® (, also a monthly peer-reviewed publication, entering its 24th year, is devoted to community and hospital-based oncologists and physicians entrusted with cancer patient care. All three journals are premier periodicals with globally recognized editorial boards dedicated to advancing knowledge and education in their focused disciplines.

About Wiley: Wiley, a global company, helps people and organizations develop the skills and knowledge they need to succeed. Our online scientific, technical, medical and scholarly journals, combined with our digital learning, assessment and certification solutions, help universities, learned societies, businesses, governments and individuals increase the academic and professional impact of their work. For more than 200 years, we have delivered consistent performance to our stakeholders. The company's website can be accessed at

About Regenerative Medicine Foundation (RMF): The non-profit Regenerative Medicine Foundation fosters strategic collaborations to accelerate the development of regenerative medicine to improve health and deliver cures. RMF pursues its mission by producing its flagship World Stem Cell Summit, honouring leaders through the Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Action Awards, and promoting educational initiatives.

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