It has recently been reported that the ob gene receptor was expressed on human and murine hematopoietic stem cells and that the ob gene product leptin stimulated hemato- and lymphopoiesis at the stem cell level. These findings suggest a role for leptin in hemato- and lymphopoiesis during fetal development. There is at present no evidence, however, that leptin is synthesized and released by the fetus. To investigate this possibility, we have measured plasma leptin concentrations in the cord blood of 78 newborn infants. We found that leptin was present in all 78 infants in concentrations comparable with those found in adults (0.6-55.7 ng/ml). Overall, plasma leptin concentrations in the cord blood of infants correlated with birth weight (r = 0.74, P < 0.001). These observations show that leptin is synthesized and released by fetal fat cells. In addition, they are compatible with the concept that leptin may play a role in human fetal hematopoiesis.