Berlin: An imbalance in the metabolism can trigger inflammatory processes in the body and activate the immune system even among newborns and children under one year of age, scientists have found.
Researchers from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ in Germany said that sometimes an alteration in metabolic balance can be the trigger for an inflammatory immune response.
"We wanted to find out whether this phenomenon is present among newborns and children under one year of age," said UFZ researcher Dr Gunda Herberth.
Herberth and her colleagues examined blood samples from newborns (cord blood) and children under one year of age for any possible correlation between metabolites and immune parameters.
They found that elevated concentrations of specific sugars - known as hexoses - in the blood were accompanied by elevated concentrations of inflammatory immune parameters.
Conversely, a high concentration of other metabolites, such as protein components (amino acids) or degradation products of certain fats inhibited the development of inflammatory parameters.
"Increased concentrations of sugars in the blood therefore do actually lead to the development of an inflammatory immune response, even in newborns," said Herberth.
"In turn, this is directly correlated with the development of respiratory diseases in early childhood," Herberth said.
In-vitro tests confirmed the findings of her epidemiological investigation.
In cell cultures, immune cells exposed to hexoses showed elevated concentrations of inflammatory parameters, while those exposed to amino acids inhibited the production of inflammatory components.
"As certain amino acids can obviously also provide protection from inflammation, we assume that the balance between the metabolites is primarily responsible for the development of inflammatory processes," Herberth said.
The study is published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.