Neonatal Effects of Maternal Supplementation with Docosahexaenoic Acid and Lactoferrin on the Fetal Brain and Placenta in a Rabbit Model of Intrauterine Growth Restriction

Author(s): Miriam Illa, Laura Pla, Carla Loreiro, Cristina Miranda, Montse Mayol, Britta Anna Kühne, Marta Barenys, Eduard Gratacós, Elisenda Eixarch


The main objective is to evaluate the protective effects of maternal supplementation with docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and lactoferrin (Lf) on the fetal brain and in the placenta structure in a rabbit model of Intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR).


At 25 days of gestation, IUGR was surgically induced in pregnant rabbits. At that time, mothers were randomized to receive no treatment, oral DHA or oral Lf administration. Five days later, animals were delivered obtaining untreated IUGR, IUGR treated with DHA and IUGR treated with Lf. At postnatal day 1, a functional and structural evaluation was performed, including neuronal arborization in the frontal cortex, density of pre-oligodendrocytes in the corpus callosum and basic placental histology.


No differences in birth weight and survival were observed across study groups. On the contrary, functional and structural improvements were observed either in the brain and in the placenta.


Our data suggest that maternal supplementation with DHA and Lactoferrin could be a beneficial nutritional intervention able to revert some of the IUGR-induced sequelae, including brain and placenta changes. These results support the implementation of clinical studies testing the potential role of DHA and Lf as protective strategies in human pregnancies affected by IUGR.

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