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Open Access Sheep Model for Study of Maternal Adrenal Gland Function During Pregnancy

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Our goal was to develop a model for the study of maternal adrenal gland regulation and the effects of maternal cortisol secretion on fetal homeostasis. At about 108 days of gestation, before the time of rapid fetal growth or fetal adrenocortical maturation, ewes, under halothane anesthesia with controlled ventilation and positioned in sternal recumbency, were adrenalectomized. Ewes were treated with aldosterone by intravenous infusion (3 g/kg of body weight per day) to induce normal late-gestation aldosterone concentration. Ewes were also treated with cortisol; for 2 postoperative days, this infusion (1 to 2 g/kg per min) induced plasma concentration similar to that associated with stress. Thereafter, the dosage of cortisol was reduced to induce plasma values similar to normal late-gestation cortisol concentration in ewes (1 mg/kg per day), or to values in nonpregnant ewes (0.6 mg/kg per day). Administration of cortisol and aldosterone was required to prevent electrolyte imbalance and signs of hypoadrenocorticism. With steroid replacement, plasma protein, electrolyte, and glucose concentrations in adrenalectomized ewes were not different from those in sham-operated pregnant ewes. Of 11 adrenalectomized ewes, one died as a result of failure of the infusion pump, and one died as a result of inappropriate treatment for hypoglycemia. Of the remaining ewes, two aborted fetuses, three ewes each delivered one live and one dead fetus, two delivered live singleton fetuses, and two delivered twins. Therefore, this model of relative hypoadrenocorticism in pregnancy is feasible and practical for studying the influence of maternal cortisol concentration on maternal and fetal homeostasis.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Departments of Pharmacodynamics and Physiology, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, Department of Pharmacodynamics, Box 100486, JHMHC, University of Florida College of Pharmacy, Gainesville, FL 32610-0486 2: Departments of Pharmacodynamics and Physiology, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida

Publication date: October 1, 1998

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  • Comparative Medicine (CM), an international journal of comparative and experimental medicine, is the leading English-language publication in the field and is ranked by the Science Citation Index in the upper third of all scientific journals. The mission of CM is to disseminate high-quality, peer-reviewed information that expands biomedical knowledge and promotes human and animal health through the study of laboratory animal disease, animal models of disease, and basic biologic mechanisms related to disease in people and animals.

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