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Dublin: 11 °C Tuesday 11 August, 2020

Babies born at 35 weeks 'could be at risk of heart diseases when adults'

That’s according to scientists who carried out tests on lambs.

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A NEW STUDY suggests that babies born late preterm at 35 weeks are at a higher risk of cardiovascular disease in adult life than those born at full term.

That’s according to research published in Experimental Physiology. The researchers, who are from Hudson Institute of Medical Research and Monash University, Australia, undertook the research on lambs – not on human babies.

Animals are commonly used during research to see possible results in humans. In this case, the researchers found that lambs born preterm were more likely to show altered control of the heart by the part of our nervous system under subconscious control (sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system).

They found that young adult females of late preterm birth were more likely to have “decreased sympathetic nervous system activation of the heart”. This is an early marker of cardiovascular disease, and it occurred in otherwise healthy lambs.

In males, the results were different; adult premature males didn’t have the innate reflexes that normally bring their blood pressure back to normal when it gets too low or too high.

The researchers looked at a pre-clinical model of late preterm birth using sheep. The sheep were given drugs to induce early labour (or allowed to give birth naturally).

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Sheep were followed for up to a year and then underwent extensive testing for cardiovascular and metabolic function.

Further research into the organs of these animals is being carried out to see if changes to these could have contributed to the results observed.

Dr Beth Allison said: “Importantly, these lambs were not born very premature; they were the equivalent of 35 week human babies. Infants born at this time are generally considered very low risk for morbidity and mortality after birth.”

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