News Roundup July 24th

liling and babyStudy Shows How Early Maternal Attachment Behavior Hardwires the Infant Brain

New research out of New York University Langone is the first to show – in real-time electrical readings from rat pups’ brains- how early maternal attachment behaviors such as nursing, protecting, and grooming of pups, influence key stages of postnatal brain development. The mother’s presence and social interactions were shown to directly shape the early neural activity and growth of her offsprings’ brain. “Our research shows how in mammals the mother’s sensory stimulation helps sculpt and mold the infant’s growing brain and helps define the role played by ‘nurturing’ in healthy brain development, and offers overall greater insight into what constitutes good mothering,” says Sullivan, a professor at the NYU School of Medicine and its affiliated Nathan S. Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research. “There are so many factors that go into rearing children,” says lead study investigator Emma Sarro, PhD, a postdoctoral research fellow at NYU Langone. “Our findings will help scientists and clinicians better understand the whole-brain implications of quality interactions and bonding between mothers and infants so closely after birth, and how these biological attachment behaviors frame the brain’s hard wiring.” Read more here.

Natural Birth May Strengthen Immune System

Several studies suggest that children delivered by natural birth have different intestinal flora than children delivered by Caesarean section, but it is still not known why or what it means for the immune system. A new study out of the University of Copenhagen shows that when mice pups are delivered by natural birth, as opposed to Caesarean section, the newborns are exposed to more bacteria from the mother. In this way, the newborn baby’s immune system learns to tell the difference between its own harmless molecules and foreign molecules. Pups delivered by Caesarean section showed a lower number of cells of a type that plays an important role in preventing reactive immune cells from responding to molecules from the body itself, from the diet and from harmless intestinal bacteria. Since autoimmune diseases (such as type 1 diabetes, Chrohn’s disease and allergies) are characterized by an over-reaction by the immune system, the hope is that eventually we may be able to develop ways to strengthen the immune system in newborns who are predisposed to autoimmune diseases. Click to read more about the study here.

Early Predictor of Preeclampsia

University of Iowa researchers have discovered a biomarker that could reliably predict, as early as 6 weeks into a pregnancy, whether or not a woman will develop preeclampsia. “We’ve broken the circle of ‘no test, no model, no cure’ which has plagued the preeclampsia field for centuries,” notes Grobe. “Suddenly we have identified a hormone that is elevated well ahead of the disorder, and have demonstrated that this hormone can cause the symptoms. It is only a matter of time before we can therapeutically target this system as a preventative or curative intervention.”

Preeclampsia is a cardiovascular disorder that develops late in pregnancy causing high blood pressure and protein in the urine. The condition often leads to premature birth that can have immediate and lifelong risks for both mother and baby.  Read more about this research here.

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