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Welcome to The Visible Embryo, a comprehensive educational resource on human development from conception to birth.

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Pregnancy Timeline by SemestersFemale Reproductive SystemFertilizationThe Appearance of SomitesFirst TrimesterSecond TrimesterThird TrimesterFetal liver is producing blood cellsHead may position into pelvisBrain convolutions beginFull TermWhite fat begins to be madeWhite fat begins to be madeHead may position into pelvisImmune system beginningImmune system beginningPeriod of rapid brain growthBrain convolutions beginLungs begin to produce surfactantSensory brain waves begin to activateSensory brain waves begin to activateInner Ear Bones HardenBone marrow starts making blood cellsBone marrow starts making blood cellsBrown fat surrounds lymphatic systemFetal sexual organs visibleFinger and toe prints appearFinger and toe prints appearHeartbeat can be detectedHeartbeat can be detectedBasic Brain Structure in PlaceThe Appearance of SomitesFirst Detectable Brain WavesA Four Chambered HeartBeginning Cerebral HemispheresEnd of Embryonic PeriodEnd of Embryonic PeriodFirst Thin Layer of Skin AppearsThird TrimesterDevelopmental Timeline
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May 24, 2012--------News Archive Return to: News Alerts


There is strong evidence that the colonization of the body by microbes has
an important influence on the development of infants' immune systems.

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Breast-Fed Babies' Gut Microbes Contribute to Healthy Immune Systems

Differences in bacteria colonizing the infant gut in formula-fed and breast-fed babies, lead to changes in the genes in the infant's immune system

The study, published in the April 30 issue of BioMed Central's open access journal Genome Biology, is an Editor's Pick. The research was a joint effort of University of Illinois, Texas A&M University, Miami University, and University of Arkansas scientists.

"This study provides a first insight into the interactions between microbes and the developing infant and how these interactions are affected by diet. It also demonstrates the power of new experimental and analytical approaches that enable the simultaneous analysis of the microbiome and the host response," according to Mihai Pop of the University of Maryland in a review of the study for the publishing journal.

There is strong evidence that the colonization of the body by microbes has an important influence on the development of infants' immune systems, he added.

In the study, the researchers compared the genes expressed in cells from the intestines of three-month-old exclusively breast-fed or formula-fed infants and related this to their gut microbes. The human intestine is lined by epithelial cells that process nutrients and provide the first line of defense against food antigens and pathogens. Approximately one-sixth of the intestinal epithelial cells are shed every day into feces, providing a non-invasive picture of what is going on inside the gut.

The baby's gene expression profile was compared to the genes contained in the microbes in its gut, or the bacterial metagenome. This analysis provides a picture of who the bacteria are and what they are doing.

The study showed that babies that had been fed only breast milk had a more diverse bacterial colonization than formula-fed babies. The scientists also found a link between the expression of genes in the bacteria and genes of the immune system in the baby.

"While we found that the microbiome of breast-fed infants is significantly enriched in genes associated with 'virulence,' including resistance to antibiotics and toxic compounds, we also found a correlation between bacterial pathogenicity and the expression of host genes associated with immune and defense mechanisms," said Robert Chapkin of Texas A&M University.

Iddo Friedberg of Miami University in Ohio said that the differences in virulence genes probably do not reflect an infection.

"The breast-fed babies had a larger complement of gram-negative bacteria than the formula-fed babies. Gram-negative bacteria have genes that, although classified as 'virulent,' can activate the immune system but not cause an infection in the process. We are now studying this finding in greater depth," he said.

U of I scientist Sharon Donovan: "The findings show that human milk feeding promotes the beneficial microbe population in the gut and crosstalk between these bacteria and the immune system of the infant and are helping us to define exactly why breast is best."

Co-authors are the U of I's Mei Wang and Sharon M. Donovan; Robert S. Chapkin, Scott Schwartz, Ivan I. Ivanov, Laurie A. Davidson, Jennifer S. Goldsby, and David B. Dahl of Texas A&M University; Iddo Friedberg of Miami University; Damir Herman of the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

Funding was provided by grants from the National Institutes of Health, Hatch support through the U of I Division of Nutritional Sciences Vision 20/20 program, and a USDA-NIFA Designing Foods for Health grant.

Original article: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-05/uoic-bbg052112.php