A high frequency of apoptosis was found in cultures of lymphocytes isolated from the venous blood of children born with a low birth weight
Children born with a low birth weight (below 2500g) exhibit a slower rate of development, and a greater tendency towards morbidity and mortality, together with a deficit of weight and height. One reason could be an increase in the level of cell elimination by apoptosis. The aim of this study was to evaluate and compare the incidence of apoptotic and necrotic (dead) cells in cultures of peripheral blood lymphocytes obtained from children born with a low birth weight and from children with a normal birth weight. Peripheral blood lymphocytes were obtained by venipuncture (10 ml) and isolated using the density gradient centrifugation method. The lymphocytes were cultured for 48 h in a culture medium containing low concentrations of fetal calf serum. A comparison study was performed between low birth weight children and normal birth weight children and the susceptibility of their lymphocytes to apoptosis and to necrosis in serum-deficient feeding culture conditions. The amount of apoptotic cells and the percentage of dead cells were significantly higher in cultures of lymphocytes obtained from low birth weight children than in cultures from normal birth weight children. The two estimated parameters inversely correlated with the concentration of fetal calf serum in the culture medium. Pulsed field gel electrophoresis showed increased DNA degradation patterns in the cultures of lymphocytes obtained from low birth weight children. Our results should be perceived as an indication that, under worse feeding conditions, the elimination of cells by apoptosis and by necrosis is significantly higher for lymphocytes of low birth weight children than for those of normal birth weight children. The enhanced elimination of lymphocytes is related to a greater susceptibility to infections, especially of the respiratory tract, as established in the retrospective analysis of the anamneses of the examined group of low birth weight children.
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