Sydney Researchers Make Breakthrough in Fetal Immune Programming

By Ryan Mccann
Thursday, 06 June, 2013

Sydney Researchers have made an exciting breakthrough to being able to predict and implement preventative measures for common diseases, such as diabetes and asthma, before a baby is born.
A team at the Sydney Medical School Nepean has had their finding published in the Journal of Immunology.  The team has discovered that during pregnancy, important immune cells in the mother and developing baby are highly synchronised, likely through pregnancy-related hormones.
Paper senior author Professor Ralph Nanan said the four-year study found mothers appear to program their baby's immune system, a concept referred to as fetal immune programming.
"Environmental and genetic factors, by themselves or in combination, program the development of disease, and the first environment we are exposed to as humans is that of our mother's womb," he said.  "Consequently, the concept that what happens to us in utero will influence our health later in life has been supported by several clinical observations. “For example, if the mother's nutritional status is low, the baby will have an increased risk of developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease later in life.
"Most common diseases in developed countries, for example, diabetes, allergies and cardiovascular disease, are associated with some sort of inflammation which is not well controlled by our immune system. "The capacity to control inflammation is likely to be predetermined in utero. This suggests fetal immune programming is a central mechanism in the developmental origin of disease. "This process has been poorly understood until now. “But our study has discovered the first evidence of a link between the immune systems of mother and baby. "We have been able to show what happens in the womb with immune system programming and this is likely to have long term implications. Our study makes a major contribution to better understanding the mechanisms involved."

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