Undesirable changes seen in uterine lining of obese mares

Research findings suggest that an obese mare’s uterus could be less able to adapt to cyclic changes and provide an optimal environment for pregnancy. File image.

Cells responsible for the cyclical renewal of the womb lining in horses, essential for reproductive health, are compromised in obese horses, researchers have found.

The function of equine endometrial progenitor cells was found to be affected in several ways in the study, which was more focused on the self-renewal potential of the cells for regenerative therapeutic use than reproductive issues.

For their study, Agnieszka Smieszek and her fellow researchers obtained endometrial progenitor cells from four non-obese and four obese mares during anestrus – the non-reproductive period in their cycle.

The authors, reporting in the journal Cellsfound that obesity-induced changes in the cells included a decline in their proliferative activity, a fall in their clonogenic potential (their ability to retain their reproductive integrity), reduced mitochondrial metabolism, and enhanced oxidative stress.

The progenitor cells from obese mares were characterized by an increased occurrence of early cell death, loss of mitochondrial dynamics, and a senescence-associated phenotype – showing a tendency to secrete higher levels of inflammatory markers.

Obesity alters the functional features and self-renewal potential of endometrial progenitor cells, they concluded. This impairment would likely reduce their ability if used in regenerative stem-cell therapy in the same animal.

The authors noted that the uterine lining – the endometrium – has gained attention as a potential source of progenitor cells with high proliferative potential. They could, they said, have broad therapeutic effectiveness in regenerative medicine.

In veterinary medicine, therapies using the cells could include a possible treatment for subfertility caused by endometrial dysfunction, which is a problem in the horse breeding industry.

They noted the growing body of evidence, generally, supporting the negative influence of obesity on reproduction, including infertility, low quality of oocytes, and increased early pregnancy loss.

Additionally, obesity reduces the success of attaining pregnancy, even when accompanied by assisted reproductive technology.

While not the focus of their research, their paper showed differences in the endometrium of mares associated with obesity.

“These changes suggest that the obese mare’s uterus could be less able to adapt to cyclic changes and provide an optimal environment during pregnancy.

“While further studies are needed in this area, body condition is a potential consideration in broodmare management.”

The study team comprised Smieszek, Klaudia Marcinkowska, Ariadna Pielok, Mateusz Sikora and Krzysztof Marycz, all with the University of Environmental and Life Sciences in Poland; Lukas Valihrach, with the Laboratory of Gene Expression, part of the Institute of Biotechnologye of the Czech Academy of Sciences; and Elaine Carnevale, with the International Institute of Translational Medicine, also in Poland.

Smieszek, A.; Marcinkowska, K.; Pielok, A.; Sikora, M.; Valihrach, L.; Carnevale, E.; Marycz, K. Obesity Affects the Proliferative Potential of Equine Endometrial Progenitor Cells and Modulates Their Molecular Phenotype Associated with Mitochondrial Metabolism. Cells 2022, 11, 1437. https://doi.org/10.3390/cells11091437

The study, published under a Creative Commons Licensecan be read here.

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