Thornton, C.A., Jones, R.H., Doekhie, A., Bryant, A.H., Beynon, A.L., Davies, J.S.
Institute of Life Science, College of Medicine, Swansea University, Swansea, UK
For over 50 years investigators in reproductive immunology have sought to identify the mechanisms that explain how the immunocompetent mother tolerates the semi-allogeneic fetus. The current immunological paradigm of pregnancy is of active immunological tolerance of fetal cells by the pregnant woman. A perturbed tolerance response has been hypothesised to underlie adverse pregnancy outcomes. Also there is much interest in how antenatal determinants related to the maternal environment impact on these immunological mechanisms and thereby the development and long term health of the offspring. Environmental insults acting during fetal development can program the structure and function of tissues, organs and body systems. Maternal obesity may be one such insult. While the impact of maternal obesity on immune function of mother and child is relatively unknown, animal models reveal that obesity and/or high-fat feeding during pregnancy have detrimental effects on the development of the pancreas, liver, cardiovascular system, and the central and peripheral nervous systems. Many of these changes relate to regulation of energy balance and metabolism but there is a growing appreciation of the impact of maternal obesity on inflammatory responses in many tissues of both mother and child.