Researchers at the University of Birmingham (United Kingdom) have discovered, in a study recently published in the journal “Allergy”, the reason why breastfed babies have better immune systems. Breastfeeding is known to be associated with better health outcomes in childhood and adulthood, and previous research has shown that babies who are breastfed are less likely to develop asthma, obesity, and autoimmune diseases.
However, until now, the immune mechanisms responsible for these effects have been very little known. In this new study, researchers have observed for the first time that a specific type of immune cells, called regulatory T cells, expand in the first three weeks of life in breastfed human infants and are almost twice as abundant as in formula-fed babies.
These cells also control the baby’s immune response against maternal cells transferred with breast milk and help reduce inflammation. In addition, the research, supported by the Center for Research in Microbiology and Surgical Reconstruction of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR SRMRC), showed that specific bacteria, called “Veillonella” and “Gemella”, that support cell function Regulatory T’s are more abundant in the intestines of breastfed babies.
Researchers hope continue studying this mechanism biological in premature and sick newborns who have developed inflammatory complications.
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