Researchers find the molecules in breast milk that may protect infants from developing allergies

In research that has potentially hugely important implications for infant nutrition, researchers have pinpointed the molecules in breast milk that may reduce the chances of babies developing allergic conditions such as atopic dermatitis and food allergies.

Breastfed babies are believed to have fewer allergic conditions, such as eczema and food allergies, than bottle-fed babies; but the reason is not well understood. Therefore, if the molecules identified by the study can be put into a formula, it could help reduce the chances of babies developing allergies, the scientists said.

Atopic conditions, such as food allergies, asthma and a skin condition called atopic dermatitis, occur in about a third of children due to inappropriate activation of the immune system to exposure to environmental factors.

“Babies who breastfeed for more than three months may be at a lower risk for these conditions, but we don’t fully understand the biology behind this,”stated dr. Steven Hicks, associate professor of pediatrics and pediatrician at Penn State Health Children’s Hospital.

Hicks’ previous studies have shown how micro-ribonucleic acids (miRNAs), or small molecules that can regulate gene expression throughout the body, can be used to diagnose certain health conditions such as concussion or autism.

There are nearly 1,000 different types of miRNAs in human breast milk and their composition varies due to maternal characteristics such as weight, diet and genetics. Hicks and his team therefore hypothesized that four of these miRNAs could have a protective effect against infant allergies.

Researchers find the molecules in breast milk that may protect infants from developing allergies

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