New insights into babies’ first week of development

AllerGen investigators Drs Scott Tebbutt and Tobias Kollman, and AllerGen trainees Casey Shannon, Daniel He and Dr. Amrit Singh, are among the co-authors of a breakthrough study, published in Nature Communications in March 2019, that provides new insight into the molecular changes that take place in newborn infants during their first week of life.

For the study, researchers from The University of British Columbia and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine conducted detailed analyses on blood samples from two cohorts of newborn infants—one in The Gambia and the other in Papua New Guinea.

Using a unique methodology known as DIABLO, developed in Dr. Tebbutt’s lab, the team was able to derive all the needed data from a very small volume of blood from each infant—less than one millilitre, or approximately 10% of the volume typically used for such studies.

Employing a “holistic suite of contemporary methods” in a systems biology approach, the researchers observed “dramatic changes along a remarkably stable developmental trajectory” in the children’s genes, proteins and metabolites across the two cohorts. Because this trajectory appears to be “common and predictable,” the researchers suggest it might serve as a baseline reference for future studies exploring the impact on newborn development of such factors as diet, antibiotics use, and vaccination.

The study’s insights into what constitutes normal development may also greatly facilitate the diagnosing, preventing and treating of disease in early life.

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