Posted on May. 13th, 2016 at 8:45am
Mead Johnson Nutrition and MassGeneral Hospital for Children are partnering to participate in the National Microbiome Initiative, sponsored by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to advance research surrounding the human microbiome.
The microbiome is a complex ecosystem of microorganisms – also known as microbes – that consists primarily of bacteria that live on and within the human body. These microbes are found in the nose and on the skin, as well as in the gastrointestinal tract. They help us digest food, synthesize vitamins, regulate our immune system and may even impact brain functions. Our microbes vastly outnumber the cells in our bodies and are passed down from mother to child.
We can alter the microbiome of the gastrointestinal tract via nutrition, especially through the use of prebiotics and probiotics. While the science surrounding the overall human microbiome is well advanced and moving forward at light speed, our understanding of the gut microbiome is still in the early stages.
As part of this White House initiative, Mead Johnson and MassGeneral will work to continue advancing pediatric microbiome science. Together, this partnership will: • develop an innovative system to better understand how specific dietary factors impact the gut microbiome during a child’s formative years • fund new educational opportunities at the graduate and post-doctoral level that focus on this unique area of research, and • host a gut microbiome-themed symposium at a major pediatric nutrition conference later this year.
According to Brian Berg, PhD, a Principal Scientist at Mead Johnson, being at the forefront of this specialized research is essential to nourish the world’s children for the best start in life. Environmental factors such as nutrition, human touch, use of antibiotics, and even household pets serve as the building blocks for a child’s microbial make-up. Understanding the impact of an infant’s surroundings – and especially his or her nutrition – on gut health is critical in terms of advancing the overall science of pediatric nutrition and informing Mead Johnson’s ongoing innovations.
“Exposure to these environmental factors can have a significant impact on gut bacteria within the first 1000 days of life,” said Dr. Alessio Fasano, Chief of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition at MassGeneral Hospital for Children. “MGHfC and MJN enjoy a collaborative history on projects that focus on the impact of nutrition and the pediatric microbiome. We look forward to their continued partnership with us on the important work of advancing the science that supports the digestive health and well-being of infants and young children.”
Mead Johnson and MassGeneral believe the first few years of life provide a unique opportunity to impact development of the microbiome that can have lasting effects across multiple systems in the human body well into adulthood. Both organizations are committed to raising awareness about the importance of the microbiome for pediatric health. They are also planning to pursue open access publication of manuscripts generated from this partnership to encourage more research in this area.