Glucocorticoids and foetal heart maturation; implications for prematurity and foetal programming

    1. Karen E Chapman
    1. Queen's Medical Research Institute, Centre for Cardiovascular Science, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh EH16 4TJ, UK
    1. Correspondence should be addressed to K E Chapman; Email: Karen.Chapman{at}


    Glucocorticoids are steroid hormones, essential in mammals to prepare for life after birth. Blood levels of glucocorticoids (cortisol in most mammals including humans; corticosterone in rats and mice) rise dramatically shortly before birth. This is mimicked clinically in the routine administration of synthetic glucocorticoids to pregnant women threatened by a preterm birth or to preterm infants to improve neonatal survival. Whilst effects on lung are well documented and essential for postnatal survival, those on heart are less well known. In this study, we review recent evidence for a crucial role of glucocorticoids in late gestational heart maturation. Either insufficient or excessive glucocorticoid exposure before birth may alter the normal glucocorticoid-regulated trajectory of heart maturation with potential life-long consequences.

    • Revision received 26 November 2013
    • Accepted 2 December 2013
    • Made available online as an Accepted Preprint 3 December 2013
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