Maternal obesity alters immune cell frequencies and responses in umbilical cord blood samples

Randall M. Wilson, Nicole E. Marshall, Daniel R. Jeske, Jonathan Q. Purnell, Kent Thornburg, Ilhem Messaoudi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Background: Maternal obesity is one of the several key factors thought to modulate neonatal immune system development. Data from murine studies demonstrate worse outcomes in models of infection, autoimmunity, and allergic sensitization in offspring of obese dams. In humans, children born to obese mothers are at increased risk for asthma. These findings suggest a dysregulation of immune function in the children of obese mothers; however, the underlying mechanisms remain poorly understood. The aim of this study was to examine the relationship between maternal body weight and the human neonatal immune system. Methods: Umbilical cord blood samples were collected from infants born to lean, overweight, and obese mothers. Frequency and function of major innate and adaptive immune cell populations were quantified using flow cytometry and multiplex analysis of circulating factors. Results: Compared to babies born to lean mothers, babies of obese mothers had fewer eosinophils and CD4 T helper cells, reduced monocyte and dendritic cell responses to Toll-like receptor ligands, and increased plasma levels of IFN-α2 and IL-6 in cord blood. Conclusion: These results support the hypothesis that maternal obesity influences programming of the neonatal immune system, providing a potential link to increased incidence of chronic inflammatory diseases such as asthma and cardiovascular disease in the offspring.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)344-351
Number of pages8
JournalPediatric Allergy and Immunology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 1 2015


  • Asthma
  • Cytokine
  • Dendritic cells
  • Maternal obesity
  • Monocytes
  • T cells
  • Toll-like receptor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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