University of Oulu

Vuoti, E., Palosaari, S., Peräniemi, S., Tervahauta, A., Kokki, H., Kokki, M., Tuukkanen, J., & Lehenkari, P. (2022). In utero deposition of trace elements and metals in tissues. Journal of Trace Elements in Medicine and Biology, 73, 127042.

In utero deposition of trace elements and metals in tissues

Saved in:
Author: Vuoti, Ella1; Palosaari, Sanna1,2; Peräniemi, Sirpa3;
Organizations: 1Medical Faculty, Cancer and Translational Medicine Research Unit, University of Oulu, P.O. Box 5000, FI-90014, Finland
2Medical Research Center, Oulu University and Oulu University Hospital, Oulu, Finland
3University of Eastern Finland, School of Pharmacy, P.O. Box 1627, FI-70210 Kuopio, Finland
4University of Eastern Finland, Department of Environmental and Biological Sciences, P.O. Box 1627, FI-70210 Kuopio, Finland
5University of Eastern Finland, School of Medicine, P.O. Box 1627, FI-70210 Kuopio, Finland
6Kuopio University Hospital, Department of Anesthesia and Intensive Care Medicine, P.O. Box 100, FI-70029, Finland
7Division of Orthopedic Surgery, Oulu University Hospital, Oulu, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 4.6 MB)
Persistent link:
Language: English
Published: Elsevier, 2022
Publish Date: 2022-11-10


Introduction: All animals, including humans, are exposed to heavy metals which are known to accumulate in different tissues, especially in bone. During pregnancy, the maternal bone turnover is increased and the metals in the mother’s body can be mobilized into the bloodstream. Heavy metals in maternal blood are known to pass through the placenta to the fetal blood and finally, deposited to bone tissue. However, there are no studies on the concentration of metals in the fetal solid tissues and until now, the rate of metal transfer from mother to fetus is not exactly known.

Materials and methods: Samples of the blood, liver, placenta, and three different bones were collected from 17 pregnant ewes and their 27 fetuses. The animals had no known exposure to heavy metals. The concentrations of Al, As, Ba, Ca, Cd, Co, Cr, Cu, Fe, Hg, K, Mg, Mn, Mo, Na, Ni, P, Pb, Rb, Sb, Sn, Sr, Te, Ti, Tl, V, and Zn were analyzed using ICP-MS.

Results and discussion: The concentration of Sb, Sn, Te, and Tl were under the detection limit in all the samples. The other metals were found in all maternal and fetal tissues, suggesting that all detectable metals cross the placenta. Blood concentrations were low compared to solid tissue concentrations. The concentrations of essential elements varied between maternal and fetal tissues, which could be explained by biological differences. The differences in concentrations of non-essential elements between the ewe and fetuses were smaller. The most significant differences were between maternal and fetal concentrations of Ba and Sr, which is at least partly explained by the mineralization degree of the bone.

Conclusion: Heavy metals accumulate in fetal solid tissues in sheep that are not directly exposed to heavy metals. Because of the differences in anatomy between human and sheep placenta, the accumulation in the tissue of human fetuses should be extrapolated cautiously. However, there might be some clinical relevance for fertile aged women who are exposed to heavy metals, such as women who work in the metal industry or who have undergone joint replacement surgery.

see all

Series: Journal of trace elements in medicine and biology
ISSN: 0946-672X
ISSN-E: 1878-3252
ISSN-L: 0946-672X
Volume: 73
Article number: 127042
DOI: 10.1016/j.jtemb.2022.127042
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 3142 Public health care science, environmental and occupational health
3123 Gynaecology and paediatrics
Funding: This study was funded by a research grant with Finnish Government special state support for research (VTR) (EV, S Palosaari and PL).
Copyright information: © 2022 The Authors. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (