Limited information is available on how fetal growth retardation (FGR) affects the lung in the neonatal period in males and females. This led us to test the hypothesis that FGR alters lung mechanics and the surfactant system during the neonatal period. To test this hypothesis a model of FGR was utilized in which pregnant rat dams were fed a low protein diet during both the gestation and lactation period. We subsequently analyzed lung mechanics using a FlexiVent ventilator in male and female pups at postnatal day 7 and 21. Lung lavage material was obtained at postnatal day 1, 7 and 21, and was used for analysis of the surfactant system which included measurement of the pool size of surfactant and its subfraction as well as the surface tension reducing ability of the surfactant. The main result of the study was a significantly lower lung compliance and higher tissue elastance which was observed in FGR female offspring at day 21 compared to control offspring. In addition, female LP offspring exhibited lower surfactant pool sizes at postnatal day 1compared to controls. These changes were not observed in the male offspring. It is concluded that FGR has a different impact on pulmonary function and on surfactant in female, as compared to male, offspring.
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