Most of the worldwide deaths in patients with non-communicable diseases are due to cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, which are determined by a mix of environmental, genetic and epigenetic factors, and by their interactions. The aetiology of most cardiovascular diseases has been partially linked with in utero adverse conditions that may increase the risk of developing diseases later in life, known as Developmental Origins of Health and Disease (DOHaD). Perinatal hypoxia can program the fetal and postnatal developmental patterns, resulting in permanent modifications of cells, organs and systems function. In spite of the vast evidence obtained from human and animal studies linking development under adverse intrauterine conditions with increased cardiovascular risk, still few is known about the specific effects of intrauterine oxygen deficiency and the related pathogenic mechanisms. Currently, the most accepted processes that program cellular function are epigenetic mechanisms which determine gene expression in a cell-specific fashion. In this chapter we will review the current literature regarding the perinatal exposure to chronic hypoxia and Fetal Growth Restriction (FGR) in humans and animals and how this impinges the cardiovascular physiology through epigenetic, biochemical, morphologic and pathophysiologic modifications that translate into diseases blasting at postnatal life.
Part of the book: Hypoxia and Human Diseases