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Bioactive RNA in Infant Nutrition: A Novel Regulator of Developmental Origins and Allergic Response

Characterize longitudinal changes in immune-related ribonucleic acids (RNAs) during the first four months after birth (a critical period when protective breastfeeding benefits are conferred) and compare breast milk RNA exposure between atopic and non-atopic infants. Atopy, the genetic tendency to develop allergic diseases such as asthma and atopic dermatitis (AD), is present in nearly one-third of children. Atopy results from activation of the immune response to environmental exposures. The developmental origins that influence this response are not completely understood. Infants who breastfeed beyond three months have lower atopy risk. What factors in maternal breast milk (MBM) confer these health benefits and why is breastfeeding beyond three months so critical? The answer may be a bioactive factor in MBM called microRNA (miRNA). MiRNAs are small non-coding molecules that regulate gene expression across multiple tissues. There are nearly 1,000 types of miRNAs in MBM. The majority are found in the lipid or cellular milk fractions, and evidence suggests that they regulate metabolic and immune pathways. Studies by our lab and others demonstrate that MBM miRNA composition is influenced by both maternal factors (delivery method and weight) and infant factors (prematurity). Animal studies suggest nutritional miRNA influences the immune system through immune-modulation. Thus, breast milk miRNA exposure may mitigate infant atopy risk.
Alexandra Confair at or 717-531-5656
18 year(s) or older
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Inclusion Criteria:
New breastfeeding mother
Mothers ages 18-50
healthy baby < 7 days old
seeking care at a Penn State Pediatric Clinic
Term baby 37-42 weeks at birth
Exclusion Criteria:
plan to move out of central PA within 1 year
plan to stop breastfeeding before baby is 4 months old
Children's Health
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Hershey, PA