Scientists discovered years ago that newborn infants depend upon immune components transferred from their mothers to survive the onslaught of pathogens that begin invading their bodies as soon as they are born. Eventually, children develop their own immune systems, built through surviving natural exposures to viruses and bacteria, and augmented by a phalanx of well-established childhood vaccines. But in the meantime, it’s one of a mother’s most important gifts that keeps their babies safe: antibodies.
Now, a far-reaching study published in Nature journal provides a surprising explanation of how those early days of mother-provided immunity actually work–and what that information could mean for preventing death and disability from a wide range of infectious diseases. The findings suggest that researchers may be able to mimic the amped-up antibodies that expecting mothers produce to create new drugs to treat diseases as well as improved vaccines to prevent them.
Now lets look at how the mothers make super antibodies:
The new study identifies which specific sugar is changed during pregnancy, as well as how and when the change occurs. During pregnancy, the “acetylated” form of sialic acid (one of the sugars attached to antibodies) shifts to the “deacetylated” form. This very subtle molecular change allows immunoglobulin G (IgG) —the body’s most common type of antibody—to take on an expanded protective role by stimulating immunity through receptors that respond specifically to deacetylated sugars.
We’ve known for years the many far-reaching benefits of breastfeeding. “ne major factor is the transfer of antibodies in breastmilk. The study shows that the molecular switch persists in nursing mothers so that antibodies with enhanced protective scope are also transferred to babies through breastmilk.
Therefore, it was concluded that the immunity needs to exist within the mother for it to be transferred to her child. Without natural exposures or immunity primed by vaccination, when that light switch flips during pregnancy, theres no electricity behind it.