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Researchers have found that prenatal exposure to cocaine can have an effect on the development of the heart and lasting, lifelong adverse effects, especially for males.
Cocaine abuse is becoming increasingly prevalent among women of childbearing age, and is associated with numerous adverse prenatal outcomes. New research, published in The Journal of Physiology, by Professor Lubo Zhang and his research team from Loma Linda University School of Medicine in California presents the finding that cocaine exposure in utero has lasting and lifelong adverse effects on the heart in adulthood, particularly if you are male.
Professor Zhang's research group has been studying the effect of adverse intrauterine environment on fetal heart development and its lifelong pathophysiological consequences in the adult heart.
Using an animal model of the pregnant rat, they found that fetal exposure to cocaine during gestation resulted in an increase in heart susceptibility to ischaemia and reperfusion injury in late adult life.
Interestingly, the effect of prenatal cocaine exposure on cardiac vulnerability in adult offspring is gender-dependent, with the male heart being more susceptible to increased ischaemia/reperfusion injury induced by prenatal cocaine exposure.
Earlier work by professor Zhang's group showed that fetal chronic hypoxia also increased cardiac vulnerability to ischaemia and reperfusion injury in late adult life.
Epidemiological studies in humans have shown an association of fetal undernutrition in the womb and an increased risk of hypertension and ischaemic heart disease in adulthood.
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