Changes in microvascular perfusion of heart and skeletal muscle in sheep around the time of birth

Matthew W. Hagen, Samantha Louey, Sarah M. Alaniz, Todd Belcik, Matthew M. Muller, Laura Brown, Jonathan R. Lindner, Sonnet S. Jonker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


New Findings: What is the central question of this study? How does the microvascular perfusion of striated muscle change during the dynamic developmental period between the late gestation fetus and early neonate? What is the main finding and its importance? In both myocardium and skeletal muscle, perfusion of striated muscle is significantly reduced in the neonate compared to the late term fetus, but flow reserve is unchanged. The results suggest striated muscle capillary networks grow more slowly relative to the myofibres they nourish during the perinatal period. Abstract: Microvascular perfusion of striated muscle is an important determinant of health throughout life. Birth is a transition with profound effects on the growth and function of striated muscle, but the regulation of microvascular perfusion around this transition is poorly understood. We used contrast-enhanced ultrasound perfusion imaging (CEUS) to study the perfusion of left ventricular myocardium and hindlimb biceps femoris, which are populations of muscle with different degrees of change in pre- to postnatal workloads and different capacities for postnatal proliferative growth. We studied separate groups of lambs in late gestation (135 days’ gestational age; 92% of term) and shortly after birth (5 days’ postnatal age). We used CEUS to quantify baseline perfusion, perfusion during hyperaemia induced by adenosine infusion (myocardium) or electrically stimulated unloaded exercise (skeletal muscle), flow reserve and oxygen delivery. We found heart-to-body weight ratio was greater in neonates than fetuses. Microvascular volume and overall perfusion were lower in neonates than fetuses in both muscle groups at baseline and with hyperaemia. Flux rate differed with muscle group, with myocardial flux being faster in neonates than fetuses, but skeletal muscle flux being slower. Oxygen delivery to skeletal muscle at baseline was lower in neonates than fetuses, but was not significantly different in myocardium. Flow reserve was not different between ages. Given the significant somatic growth, and the transition from hyperplastic to hypertrophic myocyte growth occurring in the perinatal period, we postulate that the primary driver of lower neonatal striated muscle perfusion is faster growth of myofibres than their associated capillary networks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)135-145
Number of pages11
JournalExperimental physiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2023


  • development
  • ultrasound
  • vascular

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Physiology (medical)


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