Mothers Can Pass On Allergies to Their Babies During Pregnancy, New Study Finds
“Infants experience allergic responses closely linked with the mother’s allergic response in ways that cannot only be explained by genetics," said Associate Professor Ashley St. John.
Allergies are a pain to deal with growing up, so as parents, we want to make sure to be aware of our children’s allergies as early as possible. Now, with the help of new research, we may even be able to predict our children’s allergies right from the womb.
It has recently been found that mothers may pass on their allergies to their newborn even before birth, as said in a new study published in the journal Science by the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH) and Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore.
Mother’s Allergies Can Be Passed On To Child
For their test on the issue, scientist used an animal model that included newborn mice and their mothers. With this, researchers found that a mother’s immunoglobulin E (IgE), the key antibody that triggers allergic reactions in the body, can apparently cross the placenta and enter the foetus. This led to the antibody binding itself to the foetus’ immune cells that are responsible for releasing chemicals that can trigger allergic reactions such as runny noses and asthma.
When the baby mice were born, they were discovered to have developed the same allergic reactions to allergens as the mother mice. It was also found that the newborn mice were triggered by these allergens immediately at first exposure, unlike fully grown mice who reacted only after two exposures.
They also noted that the transfer faded within time as the allergic reactions the baby mice experienced lasted for four weeks and less or none at six weeks. But their findings were backed up by cellular tests and imaging that revealed the inclusion of the process called degranulation, which is when the maternal IgE binds itself to fetal mast cells showing how they release chemicals in reaction to allergens.
Their findings revealed that the maternal IgE crossing into the placenta could happen to human babies as well.
“There is currently a significant lack of knowledge on mast cells that are present early on in the developing foetus. Here, we discovered that foetal mast cells phenotypically mature through the course of pregnancy, and can be sensitised by IgE of maternal origin that crosses the placental barrier. The study suggests that a highly allergic pregnant mother may potentially transfer her IgE to her baby that consequently develop allergic reactions when exposed to the first time to the allergen,” said Dr Florent Ginhoux, a senior co-author of the study.
It was also found that the protein, FcRN, plays a big role in the IgE transfer process. The mice without FcRN were discovered to have no maternal IgE attached to their mast cells which led to them developing no allergies when they were born.
Findings Could Help In Finding Prevention of Transfer
Researchers are optimistic that this could be the first big step in finding new intervention strategies to prevent any more allergy transfer between mothers and their babies. Since the world’s population continues to rise in allergy cases with 10 to 30 per cent of our population being affected, a solution to limit allergy transfer from a mother to her child could help in lowering these cases.
This study can be their lead to continue finding more about IgE crossing the placenta and how it affects “the skin physiology after birth.”
“From a clinical point of view, developing a further understanding in placental transfer of IgE, and the mechanism of foetal mast cell activation would be key to developing strategies to reduce the chance of eczema or other allergies from being transferred from mother to baby,” said Professor Jerry Chan, the Vice Chair of Research with the Obstetrics and Gynaecology Academic Clinical Programme at the SingHealth Duke-NUS Academic Medical Centre.
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