Dramatic development of newborn babies’ immune system
As soon as a baby is born, its immune system starts to change dramatically in response to the bacteria, viruses and so forth in its new environment, a phenomenon that is common to all babies, researchers from Karolinska Institutet in Sweden write in a paper published in Cell. The study was made possible using new techniques of immune cell analysis.
Examining how the neonatal immune system changes has been difficult since the analyses are made from samples taken from the umbilical cord directly after delivery. Researchers have now exploited a new technique of immune cell analysis to monitor how babies develop for the first few weeks of life outside the womb.
“Our results are important for better understanding the infection-sensitivity of newborn babies and the risks of premature birth,” says Petter Brodin, doctor and researcher at the Science for Life Laboratory (SciLifeLab) and the Department of Women’s and Children’s Health, Karolinska Institutet. “If we can monitor the development of the immune system and steer it in different directions, we make it possible to prevent autoimmune diseases and allergies, which are partly related to the development of the immune system, and to even develop better vaccines, tailored to the neonatal immune system.”