V. Laxmi Yeruva, Ph.D.
Department of Pediatrics
Section of Developmental Nutrition
My research focuses on health-oriented basic and translational studies of immunity. A key area of research at ACNC is centered on understanding whether breast-fed children have any advantage in terms of gut development, immune function and also programming of growth and body composition. It has been suggested that breast-fed infants have advanced immune system development compared to formula-fed infants, and dietary factors in breast-milk and formulas can alter gut microbiota composition. However, does the microbiome alone shape gut development and subsequent immune function in infants? Do breast-fed children have better immune responses to infections? In order to understand and address these questions we utilize a piglet model of infant formula or breast milk feeding. Our lab and collaborators are evaluating histological and molecular indices of gastrointestinal development and gut associated lymphoid tissue, and testing how postnatal diet impacts antigen-associated immune responses. These outcomes are paired to analysis of the specific gut microbe populations that differ by diet, providing a unique perspective on the consequences of early infant nutrition and feeding. Our ultimate goal is to provide a scientific basis for postnatal feeding recommendations including breastfeeding. Furthermore, this research should prove important in efforts to improve infant formula by adding components that support physiological and immune outcomes similar to those seen with breastfeeding.