Table II summarizes in tabular form the major features of the fetal endocrine milieu discussed in the foregoing pages. The mammalian fetus develops in an environment where respiration, alimentation, and excretory functions are provided by the placenta. Fetal tissue metabolism is oriented largely to anabolism; body temperature is modulated by maternal metabolism, and fetal tissue thermogenesis is maintained at a basal level. Tissue and organ growth appear to be regulated by growth factors which probably function by autocrine or paracrine mechanisms during most of gestation (72, 146-148). In this milieu conventional endocrine control systems are largely redundant, and other transient systems more appropriate to the intrauterine environment have evolved. We have developed some insights into these systems, but much more information is necessary before we can truly understand this fascinating environment.


D A Fisher


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