OBJECTIVE: The diagnosis of fetal hypothyroidism is based at present on measurements of TSH and free thyroxine (FT4) in fetal blood samples obtained by cordocentesis. The measurement of maternal serum and urinary concentrations of compound W, immunologically similar to but chromatographically distinct from diiodothyronine sulfate (T2S), has been advocated as a new possible marker for fetal hypothyroidism. DESIGN: In this paper, we measured serum compound W levels in 84 pregnant women, 20 with and 64 without thyroid disorders before and during specific treatment. Compound W was also assessed in fetal blood obtained by cordocentesis from 49 normal fetuses and 4 fetuses with suspected hypothyroidism due to transplacental passage of propylthiouracil (PTU). Compound W levels were measured by T2S RIA in maternal and fetal serum. To assess the possible usefulness of 3, 5,3'-triiodothyroacetic acid (TRIAC) for therapy of fetal hypothyroidism we evaluated the transplacental passage of TRIAC by administering the drug to four pregnant women before therapeutic abortion. RESULTS: In normal pregnancies, both maternal and fetal compound W levels increased progressively during gestation with a significant direct correlation (P<0.001, in both mothers and fetuses). Moreover, a significant positive correlation was observed between fetal compound W and fetal FT4 values (P<0.005), whereas no correlation was observed between maternal serum compound W and maternal FT4 in either euthyroid or hyperthyroid women, suggesting the fetal origin of compound W. The hypothyroid fetuses of PTU-treated mothers showed low compound W levels, and maternal compound W values were in the low normal range and did not show the typical increase during progression of gestation. A significant increase of maternal compound W was observed when the PTU dose was reduced. TRIAC was documented to cross the placental barrier and the treatment of a hyperthyroid pregnant woman on PTU caused the high fetal TSH levels and goiter to normalize. CONCLUSIONS: Serial measurements of 3,3'-T2S crossreactive materials (compound W and 3, 3'-diiodothyroacetic acid sulfate) in maternal blood and the administration of TRIAC to the mother may represent a useful and safe alternative to invasive techniques for the diagnosis and therapy of fetal hypothyroidism.
D Cortelazzi, PS Morpurgo, P Zamperini, DA Fisher, P Beck-Peccoz and SY Wu
D Cortelazzi, V Cappiello, PS Morpurgo, S Ronzoni, MS Nobile De Santis, I Cetin, P Beck-Peccoz and A Spada
OBJECTIVE: Ghrelin is a GH secretagog isolated recently from rat stomach and involved in the stimulation of food intake and adiposity in rodents and humans. Moreover, subsequent studies showed that ghrelin is expressed in rat and human placenta, suggesting a possible influence of the peptide on fetal growth. The aim of this study was to evaluate circulating levels of ghrelin in appropriate for gestational age (AGA) or intrauterine growth-restricted (IUGR) fetuses. SUBJECTS AND METHODS: Ghrelin levels between 20 and 39 weeks of gestation were measured in 16 AGA and nine IUGR fetuses in whom blood was collected by cordocentesis performed for prenatal diagnosis of different diseases or during elective cesarean section. In most samples, GH, cortisol and leptin levels were also evaluated. Results are expressed as means+/-S.D. Differences were tested using the Student's t-test with Welch correction. P<0.05 was considered significant. RESULTS: All fetuses showed levels of ghrelin in the umbilical venous blood (100+/-99 pmol/l) that did not correlate with the gestational age or the maternal ghrelin levels. No difference was found between umbilical venous and arterial concentrations, suggesting that fetal tIssues are a source of ghrelin. Ghrelin levels in IUGR fetuses were significantly higher than those found in AGA fetuses (176+/-125 vs 58+/-44 pmol/l; P<0.005). Moreover, in samples obtained at birth, ghrelin concentrations correlated negatively with birth weight (P<0.05). In IUGR fetuses, GH and cortisol concentrations were higher and leptin levels lower than in AGA fetuses, although no significant correlation between these parameters and ghrelin levels was found. CONCLUSION: The presence of ghrelin in the fetal circulation as well as its increase in IUGR fetuses suggest a role of this peptide during intrauterine development.