Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a global epidemic in obese children and adults, and the onset might have fetal origins. A growing body of evidence supports the role of developmental programming, whereby the maternal environment affects fetal and infant development, altering the risk profile for disease later in life. Human and nonhuman primate studies of maternal obesity demonstrate that risk factors for pediatric obesity and NAFLD begin in utero. The pathologic mechanisms for NAFLD are multifactorial but have centered on altered mitochondrial function/dysfunction that might precede insulin resistance. Compared with the adult liver, the fetal liver has fewer mitochondria, low activity of the fatty acid metabolic enzyme carnitine palmitoyl-CoA transferase-1, and little or no gluconeogenesis. Exposure to excess maternal fuels during fetal life uniquely alters hepatic fatty acid oxidation, tricarboxylic acid cycle activity, de novo lipogenesis, and mitochondrial health. These events promote increased oxidative stress and excess triglyceride storage, and, together with altered immune function and epigenetic changes, they prime the fetal liver for NAFLD and might drive the risk for nonalcoholic steatohepatitis in the next generation.
Peter R. Baker II, Jacob E. Friedman
Guidelines: The Editorial Board will only consider letters that we deem relevant and of interest to our readers. We will not post data that have not been subjected to peer review, nor will we post letters that are essentially a reiteration of another letter. We reserve the right to edit any letter for length, content, and clarity. Authors will be notified by e-mail if their letters were accepted. No appeals will be considered.
Specific requirements: All letters must be 400 words or fewer. You may enter the letter as plain text or HTML. The author's name and e-mail address are required, and will be posted with the letter. All possible conflicts of interest must be noted, even if they are not posted. If you wish to include a figure (keep in mind that non-peer-reviewed data will not be posted), please contact the editors directly at email@example.com.