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Link between liver function and pregnancy

A new study has shown that impaired liver function during pregnancy may alter gut bacteria composition.

pregnancyIn the study, presented at the Society for Endocrinology Annual Conference, researchers used a mouse model with intrahepatic cholestasis (ICP) and examined the composition of gut bacteria in offspring and liver function.

Dr Caroline Ovadia, from the School of Life Course Sciences at King’s College London, and her colleagues investigated how gut microbiota are affected in the offspring of a mouse model with ICP. The results showed that the offspring had a different gut microbiome composition and impaired liver function, particularly when fed a high-fat diet, which could increase the risk of obesity.

Dr Caroline Ovadia stated:

These findings further suggest that health during pregnancy can have long-term health effects on children, and in this case how gut microbiome alterations may increase the risk of obesity in children on a Western-style, high-fat diet.

Intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP) is a liver disorder affecting approximately 5,500 pregnancies annually in the UK. Previous studies suggest that children of women with ICP are more likely to develop childhood obesity.

Growing evidence suggests the importance of the gut microbiome for good metabolic health and that altered composition can lead to impaired metabolism and weight gain. No previous studies have investigated the effects of ICP during pregnancy on the gut microbiome of either mothers or their children. Understanding how ICP may lead to obesity in children could help prevent the risk of developing this serious and life-limiting condition.

The results of the study suggest that interventions to normalise gut bacteria may help reduce childhood obesity rates in the future. Targeting microbiome composition with treatment strategies in pregnant women, such as using pre-biotics or pro-biotics, could help prevent the risk of child obesity.

Understanding changes in the composition of the gut microbiome and their effects may provide new ways of diagnosing patients at particular risk of obesity before it occurs. We could then develop personalised medicine and target appropriate treatments to alter gut bacteria accordingly.

Dr Ovadia adds.

To learn more about the study, visit the King’s College London website.

Our vision is to bring together and build on the extensive strengths of King’s Health Partners to create an Institute of Women and Children’s Health that will improve outcomes for women and children in our local area, nationally and internationally.