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The fetal matrix: evolution, development and disease
  1. A C Breeze

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    Edited by Peter Gluckman and Mark Hanson. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004, £24.99, pp 256. ISBN 0 521 54235 9


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    The idea that the intrauterine environment has an effect on disease later in life is not new. The “Barker hypothesis” has been around for over 10 years. For those unfamiliar with the hypothesis at its simplest level, it suggests that a low birth weight reflects an adverse intrauterine environment that the fetus has adapted to, in order to survive. This “thrifty phenotype” is the result of altered development in utero to cope with poor supply of nutrients and oxygen from the mother. The consequence of this phenotype, however, is a doubling in the risk of death from heart disease in individuals born with low …

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