A team of researchers from King’s College London and Homerton University Hospital studied babies who are born before 32 weeks of gestation and found that they rapidly acquired some of the adult immune functions right after their birth. It is equivalent to that acquired by infants who born at complete term.
The findings of the research are published in the journal, Nature Communications.
Researchers followed babies who were born before32 weeks gestation for identifying the population of different immune cells, the state of the population, and the ability of immune cells to produce mediators and the mechanism behind the change of their features post-natally. They tool their stool samples to analyze which bacteria are present and isolate the bacteria.
Babies born very prematurely are typically more vulnerable to the infections as compared to the other babies because the immune systems of premature babies are immature. Premature babies lack antibodies and don’t have strong immunity so they can’t fight off viruses, bacteria or fungi in the same way that babies who born at full term may be to.
Researchers observed that the immune profiles of all the infants progressed in a similar direction as they grow, regardless of the number of gestation weeks at birth. Babies who were born at the earliest weeks of gestation like before 28 weeks, they made a comparatively greater degree of movement over the same time period to those babies who were born at later gestation.
This finding suggests that preterm and term babies converge in the same time frame, and the immune development in all infants follows a set pattern afterbirths.
A lecturer in immunology at the School of Immunology & Microbial Sciences, Dr Deena Gibbons said that these outcomes highlight that the majority of the development of the immune system takes place after birth and as such, even premature babies have the ability to have normal immune development.
Infections and complications related to infections are the significant causes of deaths following preterm births. In spite of this, there is limited understanding of the immune development in babies who born prematurely, and how immune development can be influenced by the environment after birth.
Reduced CXCL8-producing T cells were observed at birth by some preterm babies who went on to develop injections. This suggests that babies who are at risk of infection and infection-related complications in the first few months of life could be identified after birth which may also lead to improved results.
There were finite differences that were driven by sex that suggests that the few identified differences may play a major role in the observations that preterm male babies often experience poorer results.
The results build on the previous findings studying the immune system of babies.
Dr. Deena Gibbons said that they are continuing to study the function of CXCL8-producing T cells and its activation process to help the infants to fight infection. She said that they also want to have a better understanding of other immune functions that change during infections to help improve results for this sensitive group.