Despite improvements in prenatal care, there is a high incidence of congenital malformations in diabetic pregnancies. Not only is the diabetic patient characterized by a disorder of total fuel metabolism, but abnormal trace element metabolism occurs as well. In the present study, maternal and fetal zinc (Zn), copper (Cu), manganese (Mn), iron (Fe), magnesium (Mg), and calcium (Ca) status has been studied in Sprague-Dawley (SD) and Wistar rats. In addition, the effect of maternal diabetes on fetal development was also investigated. Rats were injected 27 days before mating with streptozocin (STZ, 45 mg/kg) in citrate buffer. On day 20 of gestation, litters were taken by cesarean section. Fetuses from diabetic dams weighed less, and had shorter crown-rump lengths and larger placentas than fetuses from controls. Evaluation of fetal skeletal development revealed fewer calcified sternal sites, anterior phalanges and caudal vertebrae, and an increased frequency of malformations in fetuses of diabetic dams. In dams, diabetics had larger adrenals, kidneys, and liver, and smaller thymus.

Abnormal trace element metabolism was evident in diabetic dams and their fetuses. Mn was elevated in maternal liver, kidney and placenta of diabetic animals as well as in fetal liver of pups from diabetic dams. Maternal Cu and Zn levels were also higher in the liver and kidney of diabetic rats. In contrast, fetal liver Zn from fetuses of diabetic mothers was significantly decreased when compared with controls. These results suggest that diabetes may have induced fetal Zn deficiency. If this deficiency is present during embryogenesis/organogenesis, this could be one of the mechanisms of the teratogenicity of the diabetic state.

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