New research stresses the importance of a pregnant woman’s diet, and shows the possible consequences for her offspring. Through mouse studies, it was found that inadequate caloric intake in later stages of pregnancy can cause changes to occur in the sperm of her male offspring.
Epigenetic programming of the offspring’s sperm cells happens later in pregnancy, and when researchers cut caloric intake in half during this time, they found over 100 regions on the sperm that were developed differently than control mice.
In this type of research, animals were really important. In a controlled environment, researchers are able to make all conditions stable and only have one variable (caloric restriction in the last week of the mother’s gestation). This provides very solid evidence, because in humans, there are so many other variables that it would be difficult to determine the impact of the mother’s diet alone on the offspring. We know that the actions of both parents will contribute to the health of the children- there is evidence that a man’s health status can influence the health of his sperm, and in turn, can have consequences on offspring. This type of research wouldn’t have been possible in humans due to the number of variables involved, and it helped increase understanding of intergenerational gene transmission.
Why is this research important? Evidence that a mother’s actions will directly influence the outcome of her children will hopefully prompt more support for pregnant women in areas of the world where food availability is a problem. It also may provide more incentive for women to reconsider food choices during pregnancy. If restricting calories causes these problems, it’s likely that unhealthy eating could also be causing more issues that mothers might realize. Read more about it here:
Ever wonder why you can’t remember anything that happened when you were a baby? Babies can certainly form memories- but they don’t store them in a way that allows them to access those memories when they’re older. It’s called infantile amnesia, and new research is shedding light on a possible physical mechanism for the phenomenon.
It turns out that when you’re a baby, new brain cells are generated at such a fast rate that essentially there’s too much cell turnover to allow the infant to store memories. They can form memories, but if they can’t store those memories, they can’t access them when they get older.
Through research in rodents, guinea pigs and degus, researchers found that changing the rate of neurogenesis (generating new brain cells) affects memory storage. Animals who had their neuron production slowed down were able to remember things better than those that had their neuron production sped up (like the high rate of neurogenesis in infants).
It’s possible that lack of language skills and emotional development still play a role in infantile amnesia, but investigation into the rate of neurogenesis is certainly interesting. By looking into other effects of changing the rate of neurogenesis, could a treatment or prevention for Alzheimer’s be on the horizon? What do you think?
Premature babies often have lasting lung problems, but hopefully that won’t always be the case. Researchers are working on bigger and better treatments- and there’s some good news!
Currently, mothers of premature babies often receive steroid injections before delivery to help the baby’s lungs develop. After the baby’s birth, surfactant can also be administered to coat the lungs and facilitate oxygen exchange. And while these treatments have saved the lives of many babies and are incredible medical advances, researchers are working on bigger and better ideas.
By using stems cells and regenerative medicine, researchers at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario are developing techniques that could safely repair damaged lungs of premature infants! They’re using stem cells that make blood vessels, and in addition to providing hope to parents of preemies, this could also potentially help in the treatment of chronic lung diseases in adults. Research in animals has shown promising results, and clinical trials could start in just a few years. Read more about it here:
Bisphenol A, or BPA, is a chemical that’s found in many of the products we use every day. It’s an endocrine disruptor, so it can interfere with the hormones in your body. It’s used to make many plastics and resins, and you’ll find it in food cans, water bottles, dental fillings, DVDs and CDs, cash register tape, and much more. Previous research has shown that BPA can- and does- leach into food products, but until now, there hasn’t been a direct link established between BPA and cancer. BPA has been linked to plenty of other health issues, though.
Now, new research from the University of Michigan shows a direct link between BPA exposure and liver cancer. Pregnant mice were fed a diet containing human-relevant amounts of BPA during their pregnancy and while they were nursing their pups. And the babies of these mice were much more likely to develop liver tumors than control mice- it seems that the developing pups weren’t able to rid their systems of the chemical as efficiently as adults.
What does this mean for you? Pay attention to food labels! Look for BPA-free products, limit the amount of food you eat from cans and plastic containers that contain BPA, and be especially careful when you’re pregnant and when you have children in the home. Diet and health fads may come and go, but as we learn more about BPA, the news only gets worse. Read about the study here:
The bond between a mother and her child can be incredibly powerful. But research shows that it’s more than just emotional- a mother can carry a part of her child with her throughout her life!
During pregnancy, a mother provides her baby with warmth, safety, and essential nutrients. But it’s not all one-sided- the baby protects its mother, too! Through the blood exchange via the placenta, cells from the baby enter the mother’s bloodstream and can migrate through her body, ultimately settling in the heart, brain and other tissues.
This specific research study showed that these cells were less common in the brains of women who had Alzheimer’s disease. Earlier research has shown that fetal cells that remain in a mother’s tissues can help her fight off breast cancer, and research in mice showed that fetal cells literally helped heal a mother’s heart- when a pregnant mouse had a heart attack, fetal stem cells rushed to the area and began changing into new heart cells! That mother-child bond is stronger than you thought!
So if you’re a mom, regardless of where your child is, it might help you to know that a part of your child will always be in your heart- literally!
Think that stress during pregnancy doesn’t affect your baby? Think again.
When a baby is born, the first bacteria that it receives is from the birth canal- and this bacteria is responsible for beginning the bacterial colonization in the baby’s digestive system.
Stress has been proven to cause changes in the bacteria in the mother’s birth canal. In mouse studies, it was found that stressed, pregnant mice not only produced more types of bacteria, but Lactobacillus, a common and helpful bacteria for babies’ gut colonization, was greatly reduced. After birth, it was also found that gene expression in the brain was negatively affected by a reduced amount of Lactobacillus- specifically, genes related to neuron grown and connections in the brain.
Understanding this could lead to helpful therapies for human patients. By discovering the most useful bacteria to begin gut colonization, doctors can give newborns a dose of this beneficial bacteria after birth- this would be particularly helpful for babies born via C-section (who do not travel through the birth canal) and babies born to mothers who were on antibiotics (further altering the types of bacteria present).
So for pregnant moms out there- take it easy! Less stress for you ultimately means a healthier, happier baby.