Breast Milk May Protect Babies Against Necrotizing Enterocolitis

Breast Milk May Protect Babies Against Necrotizing Enterocolitis

breast milk and Necrotizing EnterocolitisBeing fed with breast milk may protect infants against the potentially lethal gastrointestinal disease necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), which particularly strikes premature children. The findings are from a study conducted at the Children's Hospital Los Angeles, which showed that a protein called neuregulin-4 (NRG4), found in breast milk but not in formula feeding, may protect the intestine against the destruction caused by NEC.

"Our research suggests that without the NRG4 protein found in breast milk, a normal protection mechanism for the immature gut may be missing," explained the study's principal investigator at The Saban Research Institute of Children's Hospital Los Angeles, Mark R. Frey, PhD. "If a baby on formula encounters an NEC trigger such as intestinal infection or injury, he or she may be at increased risk for a life-threatening condition." The research team used rodent models and in vitro analysis, as well as conducted exams involving human breast milk and infant intestinal tissue to study the disease. Formula feeding is a known risk factor for the disease, and the scientists verified that while the group of rats fed with formula developed a condition similar to NEC, the ones who received formula and the NRG4 protein were protected against intestinal damages, as were cultured intestinal cells challeng
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