Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Month of birth impacts immune system development

Date:
April 8, 2013
Source:
Queen Mary, University of London
Summary:
Newborn babies' immune system development and levels of vitamin D have been found to vary according to their month of birth, according to new research.

Baby girl. Babies' immune system development and levels of vitamin D have been found to vary according to their month of birth.
Credit: Bryan Creely / Fotolia

Newborn babies' immune system development and levels of vitamin D have been found to vary according to their month of birth, according to new research.

The research, from scientists at Queen Mary, University of London and the University of Oxford, provides a potential biological basis as to why an individual's risk of developing the neurological condition multiple sclerosis (MS) is influenced by their month of birth. It also supports the need for further research into the potential benefits of vitamin D supplementation during pregnancy.

Around 100,000 people in the UK have MS, a disabling neurological condition which results from the body's own immune system damaging the central nervous system. This interferes with the transmission of messages between the brain and other parts of the body and leads to problems with vision, muscle control, hearing and memory.

The development of MS is believed to be a result of a complex interaction between genes and the environment.

A number of population studies have suggested that the month you are born in can influence your risk of developing MS. This 'month of birth' effect is particularly evident in England, where the risk of MS peaks in individuals born in May and drops in those delivered in November. As vitamin D is formed by the skin when it is exposed to sunlight, the 'month of birth' effect has been interpreted as evidence of a prenatal role for vitamin D in MS risk.

In this study, samples of cord blood -- blood extracted from a newborn baby's umbilical cord -- were taken from 50 babies born in November and 50 born in May between 2009 and 2010 in London.

The blood was analysed to measure levels of vitamin D and levels of autoreactive T-cells. T-cells are white blood cells which play a crucial role in the body's immune response by identifying and destroying infectious agents, such as viruses. However some T-cells are 'autoreactive' and capable of attacking the body's own cells, triggering autoimmune diseases, and should be eliminated by the immune system during its development. This job of processing T-cells is carried out by the thymus , a specialised organ in the immune system located in the upper chest cavity.

The results showed that the May babies had significantly lower levels of vitamin D (around 20 per cent lower than those born in November) and significantly higher levels (approximately double) of these autoreactive T-cells, compared to the sample of November babies.

Co-author Dr Sreeram Ramagopalan, a lecturer in neuroscience at Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, part of Queen Mary, said: "By showing that month of birth has a measurable impact on in utero immune system development, this study provides a potential biological explanation for the widely observed "month of birth" effect in MS. Higher levels of autoreactive T-cells, which have the ability to turn on the body, could explain why babies born in May are at a higher risk of developing MS.

"The correlation with vitamin D suggests this could be the driver of this effect. There is a need for long-term studies to assess the effect of vitamin D supplementation in pregnant women and the subsequent impact on immune system development and risk of MS and other autoimmune diseases."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Queen Mary, University of London. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Giulio Disanto et al. Month of Birth and Thymic Output. JAMA Neurology, 2013 DOI: 10.1001/jamaneurol.2013.2116

Cite This Page:

Queen Mary, University of London. "Month of birth impacts immune system development." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 April 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130408184634.htm>.
Queen Mary, University of London. (2013, April 8). Month of birth impacts immune system development. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130408184634.htm
Queen Mary, University of London. "Month of birth impacts immune system development." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130408184634.htm (accessed August 28, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Mini Pacemaker Has No Wires

Mini Pacemaker Has No Wires

Ivanhoe (Aug. 27, 2014) Cardiac experts are testing a new experimental device designed to eliminate major surgery and still keep the heart on track. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
After Cancer: Rebuilding Breasts With Fat

After Cancer: Rebuilding Breasts With Fat

Ivanhoe (Aug. 27, 2014) More than 269 million women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. Many of them will need surgery and radiation, but there’s a new simple way to reconstruct tissue using a patient’s own fat. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Blood Clots in Kids

Blood Clots in Kids

Ivanhoe (Aug. 27, 2014) Every year, up to 200,000 Americans die from a blood clot that travels to their lungs. You’ve heard about clots in adults, but new research shows kids can get them too. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Radio Waves Knock out Knee Pain

Radio Waves Knock out Knee Pain

Ivanhoe (Aug. 27, 2014) Doctors have used radio frequency ablation or RFA to reduce neck and back pain for years. But now, that same technique is providing longer-term relief for patients with severe knee pain. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins