Introduction: Maternal obesity is associated with greater neonatal adiposity and increased offspring risk for type 2 diabetes (T2D) later in life. We have previously reported that mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) isolated from umbilical cord tissue maintain similar metabolic phenotype to the infant, particularly when differentiated to adipocytes or myocytes. A well-established driver in the pathogenesis of T2D is skeletal muscle insulin resistance. Therefore, we hypothesized that MSCs from infants born to mothers with obesity would display insulin resistance when differentiated to myocytes.

Objectives: The objective was to determine the effect of maternal obesity on offspring MSC insulin sensitivity (Si).

Methods:MSCs were isolated from umbilical cord tissue from offspring born to either normal weight (BMI 21.1 ± 0.9, n = 9) or obese (BMI 32.9 ± 2.1, n = 10) mothers enrolled in the Healthy Start pre-birth cohort study in Colorado. Following differentiation into skeletal muscle myocytes, MSCs were serum starved and incubated with 14C-glucose, in the presence or absence of insulin. The rate of insulin-mediated 14C-glucose incorporation into glycogen, was used as an index of offspring Si.

Results: Offspring Si did not correlate with maternal BMI (r = 0.26), nor was BMI different between groups when median-stratified by offspring Si. However, maternal free fatty acid levels positively correlated with offspring Si (r = 0.63, p < 0.05) and were significantly elevated in the high Si group (low Si vs. high Si; 332.1 ± 30.9 vs. 483.3 ± 48.7 uEq/L, p < 0.05).

Conclusions: Offspring Si was not related to the BMI of the mother. Moreover, offspring Si was higher in cells from infants born to mothers with higher free fatty acids during pregnancy. Considering the role of insulin in somatic growth pathways, this phenomenon may serve to increase available nutrient storage capacity during early development.


A.B. Chaves: None. J.A. Johnson: None. D. Zheng: None. D. Dabelea: None. J.A. Houmard: None. K.E. Boyle: None.


American Heart Association (14PRE18230008); Nutrition Obesity Research Center (P30DK048520); National Institutes of Health (R01DK076648); Colorado National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (UL1TR001082)

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