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Keywords:

  • developmental programming;
  • endothelium;
  • microvasculature;
  • nutrition

Abstract

There is compelling evidence that microvascular deficits affecting multiple tissues and organs play an important role in the aetiopathogenesis of cardio-metabolic disease. Furthermore, both in humans and animal models, deficits in small vessel structure and function can be detected early, often before the onset of macrovascular disease and the development of end-organ damage that is common to hypertension and obesity-associated clinical disorders. This article considers the growing evidence for the negative impact of an adverse maternal diet on the long-term health of her child, and how this can result in a disadvantageous vascular phenotype that extends to the microvascular bed. We describe how structural and functional modifications in the offspring microcirculation during development may represent an important and additional risk determinant to increase susceptibility to the development of cardio-metabolic disease in adult life and consider the cell-signalling pathways associated with endothelial dysfunction that may be ‘primed’ by the maternal environment. Published studies were identified that reported outcomes related to the microcirculation, endothelium, maternal diet and vascular programming using NCBI PubMed.gov, MEDLINE and ISI Web of Science databases from 1980 until April 2013 using pre-specified search terms. Information extracted from over 230 original reports and review articles was critically evaluated by the authors for inclusion in this review.