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Tufts Medical Center researchers finds marker in premies' saliva predicts readiness to feed by mouth
Date:5/21/2012

re than 40 percent of children in feeding disorder clinics were premature babies.

The NPY2R gene has been studied extensively because it helps regulate appetite and plays a role in both obesity and eating disorders. But no one had examined its role in prompting premature babies to eat, because most researchers were not focusing on appetite's role in newborn feeding problems.

"No one had targeted this area of research because you can't ask a baby, are you hungry?" said Maron. But, in fact, premature babies need to grow to three or four times their initial birth weight in the first year of life. This requires a voracious appetite and while researchers aren't sure exactly how it works, it appears that NPY2R suppresses that appetite.

"More research is needed to explain the biological mechanism regulating this gene in infants. However, if we can detect NPY2R in newborns' saliva, there's a 95 percent chance they won't feed for you or they will be poor feeders,'' said Maron.

Maron is developing a simple saliva test for use in neonatal intensive care units to help doctors determine that it's safe to start transitioning premature babies to oral feeding. Feeding is a complex behavior that involves a variety of skills, muscles and nerves. Ultimately, Maron hopes to develop a comprehensive panel that would help determine not only when babies are ready to feed, but identify the factors that are limiting their feeding success. Such an assay could shorten hospital stays, reduce significant morbidities and save millions in healthcare costs.


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Contact: Julie Jette
jjette@tuftsmedicalcenter.org
617-636-3265
Tufts Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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