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Enhancing Infants Immune System

he differences his team has uncovered in newborns' immune response patterns may serve an evolutionary purpose. Nature may suppress babies' production of inflammatory cytokines like TNF-alpha and IL-12 before birth because they can trigger preterm labor, while increasing production of adenosine and IL-6, which may have a protective effect on the pregnancy.

In 1999, Levy discovered that newborns are deficient in a natural antibiotic called bactericidal/permeability-increasing protein (BPI), produced by white blood cells known as neutrophils. Based on this discovery, clinical trials are now underway at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas to replace the missing BPI in high-risk newborns with heart conditions who are undergoing cardiac bypass operations.

"As we better understand the molecular pathways that account for newborns' susceptibility to infections, we can leverage them to enhance their immune defenses," Levy says.

Contact: Jamie Newton james.newton@childrens.harvard.edu 617-355-6420 Children's Hospital Boston Source: Eurekaert
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