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New gestational diabetes insight gained from Cardiff study

By Editor
11th March 2019
Pregnancy, Research

Women taking metformin and, or,  insulin during gestational diabetes could reduce the risk of long-term complications for their child, according to a Cardiff University study.

Researchers discovered that the placentas of women treated with the drugs did not exhibit DNA alterations associated with type 2 diabetes, while those of women not treated with the drugs did.

They say the findings suggests that a child born to a woman receiving the treatment may be protected against the increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes normally associated with exposure to gestational diabetes.

Gestational diabetes increases the risk of having a large baby and a caesarean section delivery. Women diagnosed with gestational diabetes are more likely to experience pregnancy related depression and seven times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life. Gestational diabetes can also have a significant impact on their children, making them less likely to reach timely developmental milestones, more likely to be overweight, with a six-fold increased risk of type 2 diabetes.

Professor Rosalind John, who led the research, said: “Previous studies have shown that individuals with type 2 diabetes have shorter telomeres – a DNA sequence that acts as a ‘cap’ at the ends of chromosomes and helps maintain genomic stability. One study also suggested changes in placental telomeres after gestational diabetes, a pregnancy condition linked to a higher risk of type 2 diabetes. This suggests that shorter telomeres might be acquired during pregnancy and contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes.

“Using high-resolution telomere length analysis developed by Professor Duncan Baird, we confirmed the original finding that GDM exacerbates telomere erosion in the placenta and remarkably we found that this occurred only in placenta from male babies. We further showed that GDM mothers who were treated with metformin and/or insulin do not demonstrate this placental telomere shortening. This treatment pathway may protect against telomere erosion, an observation with potentially important clinical implications.

“Our study was on a small number of samples and further work in this area is necessary, but our research suggests that early adoption of targeted medical treatment in GDM pregnancies where the foetus is known to be male could offer an effective strategy for preventing adverse outcomes for children.”

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