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Concept: Prenatal development


This study compared fetal response to musical stimuli applied intravaginally (intravaginal music [IVM]) with application via emitters placed on the mother’s abdomen (abdominal music [ABM]). Responses were quantified by recording facial movements identified on 3D/4D ultrasound. One hundred and six normal pregnancies between 14 and 39 weeks of gestation were randomized to 3D/4D ultrasound with: (a) ABM with standard headphones (flute monody at 98.6 dB); (b) IVM with a specially designed device emitting the same monody at 53.7 dB; or © intravaginal vibration (IVV; 125 Hz) at 68 dB with the same device. Facial movements were quantified at baseline, during stimulation, and for 5 minutes after stimulation was discontinued. In fetuses at a gestational age of >16 weeks, IVM-elicited mouthing (MT) and tongue expulsion (TE) in 86.7% and 46.6% of fetuses, respectively, with significant differences when compared with ABM and IVV (p = 0.002 and p = 0.004, respectively). There were no changes from baseline in ABM and IVV. TE occurred ≥5 times in 5 minutes in 13.3% with IVM. IVM was related with higher occurrence of MT (odds ratio = 10.980; 95% confidence interval = 3.105-47.546) and TE (odds ratio = 10.943; 95% confidence interval = 2.568-77.037). The frequency of TE with IVM increased significantly with gestational age (p = 0.024). Fetuses at 16-39 weeks of gestation respond to intravaginally emitted music with repetitive MT and TE movements not observed with ABM or IVV. Our findings suggest that neural pathways participating in the auditory-motor system are developed as early as gestational week 16. These findings might contribute to diagnostic methods for prenatal hearing screening, and research into fetal neurological stimulation.

Concepts: Pregnancy, Embryo, Prenatal development, Fetus, Uterus, Obstetrics, Gestation, Gestational age


Alcohol consumption in western pregnant women is not uncommon and could be a risk factor for childhood atopic disease. However, reported alcohol intake may be unreliable, and associations are likely to be confounded.

Concepts: Alcohol, Pregnancy, Childbirth, Prenatal development, Fetal alcohol syndrome



Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM), one of the common metabolic disorders of pregnancy, leads to functional alterations in various cells including stem cells as well as some abnormalities in fetal development. Perivascular stem cells (PVCs) have gained more attention in recent years, for the treatment of various diseases. However, the effect of GDM on PVC function has not been investigated. In our study, we isolated PVCs from umbilical cord of normal pregnant women and GDM patients and compared their phenotypes and function. There is no significant difference in phenotypic expression, response to bFGF exposure and adipogenic differentiation capacity between normal PVCs and GDM-PVCs. However, when compared with normal PVCs, early passage GDMPVCs displayed decreased initial rates of cell yield and proliferation as well as a reduced ability to promote wound closure. These results suggest that maternal metabolic dysregulation during gestation can alter the function of endogenous multipotent stem cells, which may impact their therapeutic effectiveness.

Concepts: Pregnancy, Embryo, Prenatal development, Fetus, Diabetes mellitus, Developmental biology, Obstetrics, Gestational diabetes


Six liner measurements of constant cranial cervical ganglion (CCG), three inconstant main, first, second middle cervical ganglia (MG, MG1, MG2), and interganglionic branch (IGB) were taken to determine normal fetal growth rates and patterns of cervical sympathetic trunk (CST) components in different gestational ages.

Concepts: Pregnancy, Embryo, Prenatal development, Fetus, Gestational age, Cervical ganglia, Paravertebral ganglia, Middle cervical ganglion


Glyphosate (GLY) is the most heavily used herbicide worldwide but the extent of exposure in human pregnancy remains unknown. Its residues are found in the environment, major crops, and food items that humans, including pregnant women, consume daily. Since GLY exposure in pregnancy may also increase fetal exposure risk, we designed a birth-cohort study to determine exposure frequency, potential exposure pathways, and associations with fetal growth indicators and pregnancy length.

Concepts: Pregnancy, Childbirth, Embryo, Prenatal development, Fetus, Fertility, Abortion, Gestational age


Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) are difficult to diagnose since many heavily exposed infants, at risk for intellectual disability, do not exhibit craniofacial dysmorphology or growth deficits. Consequently, there is a need for biomarkers that predict disability. In both animal models and human studies, alcohol exposure during pregnancy resulted in significant alterations in circulating microRNAs (miRNAs) in maternal blood. In the current study, we asked if changes in plasma miRNAs in alcohol-exposed pregnant mothers, either alone or in conjunction with other clinical variables, could predict infant outcomes. Sixty-eight pregnant women at two perinatal care clinics in western Ukraine were recruited into the study. Detailed health and alcohol consumption histories, and 2nd and 3rd trimester blood samples were obtained. Birth cohort infants were assessed by a geneticist and classified as unexposed (UE), heavily prenatally exposed and affected (HEa) or heavily exposed but apparently unaffected (HEua). MiRNAs were assessed in plasma samples using qRT-PCR arrays. ANOVA models identified 11 miRNAs that were all significantly elevated in maternal plasma from the HEa group relative to HEua and UE groups. In a random forest analysis classification model, a combination of high variance miRNAs, smoking history and socioeconomic status classified membership in HEa and UE groups, with a misclassification rate of 13%. The RFA model also classified 17% of the HEua group as UE-like, whereas 83% were HEa-like, at least at one stage of pregnancy. Collectively our data indicate that maternal plasma miRNAs predict infant outcomes, and may be useful to classify difficult-to-diagnose FASD subpopulations.

Concepts: Alcohol, Pregnancy, Childbirth, Infant, Prenatal development, Fetus, Breastfeeding, Fetal alcohol syndrome


Zika virus has been sweeping through South and Central America, with more than a million suspected cases during the past few months, along with a substantial increase in reporting of infants born with microcephaly.(1),(2) Thus far, the two outbreaks have largely been epidemiologically associated in time and geography. However, Mlakar and colleagues(3) now report in the Journal molecular genetic and electron-microscopic data from a case that helps to strengthen the biologic association. This group cared for a pregnant European woman in whom a syndrome compatible with Zika virus infection developed at 13 weeks of gestation while she was working . . .

Concepts: Pregnancy, Childbirth, Genetics, Embryo, Prenatal development, Fetus, Virus, Central America


The current outbreak of Zika virus (ZIKV) infection has been associated with an apparent increased risk of congenital microcephaly. We describe a case of a pregnant woman and her fetus infected with ZIKV during the 11th gestational week. The fetal head circumference decreased from the 47th percentile to the 24th percentile between 16 and 20 weeks of gestation. ZIKV RNA was identified in maternal serum at 16 and 21 weeks of gestation. At 19 and 20 weeks of gestation, substantial brain abnormalities were detected on ultrasonography and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) without the presence of microcephaly or intracranial calcifications. On postmortem analysis of the fetal brain, diffuse cerebral cortical thinning, high ZIKV RNA loads, and viral particles were detected, and ZIKV was subsequently isolated.

Concepts: Pregnancy, Embryo, Prenatal development, Fetus, Uterus, Obstetrics, Magnetic resonance imaging, Gestational age


Alcohol is a teratogen.* Prenatal alcohol exposure is associated with a range of adverse reproductive outcomes and can cause fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) characterized by lifelong physical, behavioral, and intellectual disabilities. FASDs are completely preventable if a woman does not drink alcohol while pregnant.

Concepts: Pregnancy, Prenatal development, Fetus, Mental retardation, Fetal alcohol syndrome