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Experimental Diabetes Research
Volume 2012, Article ID 538474, 6 pages
Review Article

Impact of Maternal Diabetes on Epigenetic Modifications Leading to Diseases in the Offspring

12nd Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Aretaieion Hospital, University of Athens Medical School, 11528 Athens, Greece
21st Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Alexandra Hospital, School of Medicine, University of Athens, 11528 Athens, Greece
3Neonatal Unit, 2nd Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Aretaieion Hospital, University of Athens Medical School, 11528 Athens, Greece
4Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, School of Medicine, University of Thessaly, 41334 Larissa, Greece
53rd Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Attiko Hospital, University of Athens, 12462 Athens, Greece

Received 18 September 2012; Accepted 26 October 2012

Academic Editor: Aristidis Veves

Copyright © 2012 Nikolaos Vrachnis et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Gestational diabetes, occurring during the hyperglycemic period of pregnancy in maternal life, is a pathologic state that increases the incidence of complications in both mother and fetus. Offspring thus exposed to an adverse fetal and early postnatal environment may manifest increased susceptibility to a number of chronic diseases later in life. Compelling evidence for the role of epigenetic transmission in these complications has come from comparison of siblings born before and after the development of maternal diabetes, exposure to this intrauterine diabetic environment being shown to cause alterations in fetal growth patterns which predispose these infants to developing overweight and obesity later in life. Diabetes of the offspring is also mainly the consequence of exposure to the diabetic intrauterine environment, in addition to genetic susceptibility. Since obesity and diabetes are known to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, cardiovascular sequelae in the offspring of diabetic mothers are virtually inevitable. Research data also suggest that exposure to a diabetic intrauterine environment during pregnancy is associated with an increase in dyslipidemia, subclinical vascular inflammation, and endothelial dysfunction processes in the offspring, all of which are linked with development of cardiovascular disease later in life. The main underlying mechanisms involve persistent hyperglycemia hyperinsulinemia and leptin resistance.