Chronic Hyperinsulinemia in the Fetal Rhesus Monkey: Effects on Fetal Growth and Composition

  1. Robert Schwartz
  1. Sections of Reproductive and Developmental Medicine and Pathology, Brown University Program in Medicine; and the Departments of Pediatrics at Rhode Island Hospital and of Pediatrics, Pathology, and Obstetrics and Gynecology at Women and Infants Hospital Providence, Rhode Island
  1. Address reprint requests to John B. Susa, Ph.D., Department of Pediatrics, Rhode Island Hospital, Providence, Rhode Island 02902.

Abstract

The delivery of 19 U of insulin a day for 21 days to the rhesus monkey fetus, coupled with the permeability properties of the placenta, has made it possible to produce fetal hyperinsulinemia in the presence of euglycemia. Fetal plasma insulin concentrations of 3525 μU/ml were attained with no apparent effects on the mother. In fetal macrosomia, a 34% increase in body weight was observed above the expected weight for gestational age (466 vs. 348 g). Relative organomegaly, matched for gestational age of fetal weight, was seen in the hyperinsulinemic fetuses with enlarged livers, placentas, hearts, and spleens. Liver composition in the fetuses was only slightly affected by hyperinsulinemia. Glycogen concentration was elevated, but not sufficiently, to explain the relative hepatomegaly produced. The lipid, protein, DNA, and RNA concentrations were not affected by hyperinsulinemia. Based on the similar DNA concentrations and protein/DNA ratios observed in hyperinsulinemic and control groups, the hepatomegaly appears to be the result of insulin-stimulated hyperplasia and not of hypertrophy. In the presence of normal plasma concentrations of growth substrates, insulin in the subhuman fetus has been shown to be a growth-promoting hormone that has specific growth-stimulating effects.

  • Received June 14, 1979.
| Table of Contents