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Scientists discover secret of breastfeeding immunity

Researchers have identified the molecule which allows mothers to transfer immunity to their offspring through breastfeeding.
The benefits of breastfeeding have long been publicised, but now scientists claim to have identified a molecule which plays a central role in a mother's ability to pass on immunity to her baby.

For several years before women become pregnant, their cells that produce antibodies against intestinal infections travel around her circulatory system, frequently making diversions to her intestines.

However as soon as a woman gives birth and starts lactating, some of these antibody-producing cells make a bee-line towards her breasts.

Therefore while a baby is breastfeeding, these protective antibodies can be directly absorbed by his or her intestines, helping the infant to build up their own immune system.

Scientists from the Brigham Young University (BYU) Harvard-Stanford research team have now identified the molecule which gives the green light to the mother's cells to make a diversion towards her breasts while she is feeding.

"Everybody hears that breastfeeding is good for the baby," said Eric Wilson, a BYU microbiologist and lead author of the study.

"One of the reasons is that mothers' milk carries protective antibodies which shield the newborn from infection and this study demonstrates the molecular mechanisms used by the mother’s body to get these antibody-producing cells where they need to be."

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