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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Drug-induced changes in fetal breathing activity and sleep state.

Drugs reported to stimulate fetal breathing (FB) were injected into a femoral vein of near-term fetal lambs during rapid eye movement (REM) and non-REM (NREM) sleep. The primary response to NaCN, 0.25-0.5 mg, a dose which did not flatten the electrocorticogram, was a brief burst of gasping in any sleep state. When injected during REM sleep, NaCN caused the cessation of spontaneous FB and the onset of gasping. Stimulation of FB was observed infrequently. Caffeine (10 mg) and doxapram (3 mg) frequently caused an immediate change in sleep state or arousal. The incidence of FB increased concomitantly with a change to REM sleep or wakefulness (W), but FB still ceased with the onset of NREM sleep. When administered during an episode of spontaneous FB during REM sleep, both caffeine and doxapram caused stimulation of the frequency and depth of breathing. Pilocarpine (4 mg) caused arousal and gasping followed by prolonged vigorous breathing that was dependent on intact carotid sinus nerves. Indomethacin (120 mg over several hours) did not affect sleep states but induced FB in both NREM and REM sleep. In summary, in the fetus the primary effect of NaCN is to suppress spontaneous FB and induce gasping and the effects of pilocarpine, caffeine, and doxapram are intimately related to sleep states or arousal. Indomethacin causes the conversion from episodic fetal to continuous postnatal-type breathing. These data indicate the importance of assessing fetal state of consciousness in interpreting the respiratory response to drugs.[1]


  1. Drug-induced changes in fetal breathing activity and sleep state. Jansen, A.H., Ioffe, S., Chernick, V. Can. J. Physiol. Pharmacol. (1983) [Pubmed]
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