Apr 16, 2019 07:59 PM EDT
It has come to the understanding of university researchers that bacteria sense pregnancy and understand the need to move to the next generation for them to help babies in breaking down the sugar in mother's milk.
Alterations accompany gestation in the microbiome, bacteria that resides inside and on our body and weigh over four pounds of our body weight. They are critical in health and in fighting disease. Earlier studies that focused on changes in the microbiome revealed that during pregnancy, it is partially responsible for weight gain and essential inflammatory response. The mechanisms, however, driving these changes are unknown.
Dr. Omry Koren of the Azrieli Faculty of Medicine and Prof. Yoram Louzonof Department of Mathematics at Bar-Ilan University, as well as researchers from Beilinson Hospital, conducted a new study published in Cell Reports that discovered that progesterone regulates the microbial composition of bacteria during pregnancy in a way that may help the baby develop.
As the pregnancy progressed, the researchers studied changes in bacteria and found a dramatic change in the composition of bacteria during late pregnancy, such as an increase in the relative abundance of Bifidobacterium. Infants need crucial bacteria because they metabolize healthy sugars in breast milk that are essential for the growth of the babies. They also contain probiotic capabilities. In the previous research, it was shown that a lack of increase in Bifidobacterium during pregnancy correlates with preterm delivery.
Led by Koren, the researchers discovered that pregnant women exhibited an increase in the level of progesterone accompanied by an increased inflammatory response. Also recorded in their study was an increase in other bacteria, but Bifidobacterium was the only bacteria that was identical to pregnancy in mice.
Using progesterone, the researchers imitated pregnancy in mice, and they again discovered that Bifidobacterium increased, leading them to conclude that Bifidobacterium somehow senses progesterone and reacts to it. Still, when they took it further and administered progesterone in vitro, they found that Bifidobacterium increased rapidly. This discovery led the researchers concluding that Bifidobacterium senses and responds to progesterone.
Dr. Koren stated that their results delineate a model whereby progesterone promotes the growth of Bifidobacterium during late pregnancy. These discoveries provide new insights into understanding not only between hormones and intestinal bacteria during pregnancy but also for other conditions in which hormones are involved, including progesterone supplementation as a component of fertility treatments or therapy in menopausal women.
The Koren team are now attempting to identify how these bacteria react, what genes are turned on, what other pregnancy hormones do, and what effect they have.
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