Researchers at the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom have found that, as for rodents and other nonprimates, prenatal exposure of nonhuman primate African vervet monkeys (Chloroceus aethiops) to glucocorticoids has long-lasting deleterious effects on cardiovascular, metabolic, and neuroendocrine function.
Glucocorticoids are still widely used in obstetric practice. So, Jonathan Seckl and colleagues set out to determine the relevance to human pregnancy of rodent and nonprimate data indicating that prenatal exposure to glucocorticoids (through either the administration of dexamethasone or severe maternal stress) has long-lasting deleterious effects. In the study, which appears online on March 22 in advance of publication in the April print issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation, they show that although the birth weight of offspring born to nonhuman primate African vervet monkeys treated with dexamethasone from mid-gestation onward did not differ from that of offspring born to untreated animals, the high levels of prenatal dexamethasone impaired postnatal growth, impaired glucose-insulin homeostasis, increased blood pressure 12 months after birth, and increased the production of cortisol in response to mild stress. These data suggest that both repeated glucocorticoid therapy and severe maternal stress late in gestation are likely to have long-term deleterious effects on developing human fetuses.-Journal of Clinical Investigation