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Comparison of neonatal T regulatory cell function in Papua New Guinean and Australian newborns

Lisciandro, J.G., Prescott, S.L., Nadal-Sims, M.G., Devitt, C.J., Pomat, W., Siba, P.M., Holt, P.G., Strickland, D. and van den Biggelaar, A.H.J. (2011) Comparison of neonatal T regulatory cell function in Papua New Guinean and Australian newborns. Pediatric Allergy and Immunology, 23 (2). pp. 173-180.

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Background:  Environmental changes, including declining microbial exposure, have been linked with the rising incidence of allergic and autoimmune diseases in ‘western’ populations. This potentially occurs by altering early development of immuno-regulatory pathways including T regulatory cells (Treg). There is now increasing evidence that such conditioning begins in utero.

Methods:  We compared neonatal Treg from children born under typical western conditions (Australia, AUS) with those of neonates born under more traditional conditions of high microbial burden (Papua New Guinea, PNG).

Results:  The frequency of neonatal Treg, defined as CD4+ Foxp3+ CD127− CD25+/high was found to be higher in the cord blood of AUS compared to PNG newborns. However, cord Tregsuppressive function in a small subset of children was qualitatively similar between PNG and AUS newborns in both a Treg depletion assay and a Treg supplementation assay.

Conclusions:  These findings do not support the hypothesis that living in a ‘western’ versus more traditional environment leads to poor induction or suppressive function of neonatal Treg. However, environmentally-induced immuno-regulation may potentially occur via alternative mechanisms in PNG newborns that should now be investigated further.

Publication Type: Journal Article
Publisher: Blackwell Publishing Inc.
Copyright: © 2011 John Wiley & Sons A/S
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