Pregnancy and Lactation Weekly Digest

For the Week Ending April 22, 2018. 

Don’t stress it

Inflammation during pregnancy – once thought to be caused only by an infection or other immune insult but now known to be brought on by poverty and stress – alters the intrauterine environment and has been shown to affect both the architecture of the baby’s brain and the child’s working memory later in life. Read more here.

This is important for you because if you are in a stable life situation, be grateful that your child will be off to a good start.

Good Stem Cells and Bad Stem Cells

Stem cells have “stem-ness” – the ability to develop into many different types of cells. Embryonic cells obviously have this capacity – but so do cancer stem cells, which can travel through the blood to start new metastases once their initial tumors have been killed with therapies. It has recently been discovered that embryonic stem cells and cancer stem cells also use the same viral sequences inside their DNA. Eventually, this knowledge will hopefully be exploited clinically as a cancer therapeutic. Read more here.

This is important for you because the recent studies revealed that these viral genes date in our genomes from before humans split from chimps, and are essential for normal embryonic development – pretty cool huh?

A “Fascinating Congregation of Brooding Octopuses”

Geochemists set out to examine the rocks on a spot two miles down on the Pacific Ocean floor and found hundreds of octopus moms. They sent the footage to some biologist friends, who reported hat the octupuses and their eggs were (a) from a brand new, as yet unknown species and (b) should not be that far down, where the warm water coming out of the cracks in the volcanic rock doesn’t contain enough oxygen for them. Together, the biologists and geochemists hypothesize that they are seeing an overflow population who want to be inside cracks in the rock, where the water is nice and cool. Read more here.

This is important for you because well, I can’t imagine why it would be. Still interesting though.

Diapers, check. Layette, check. DNA test?

Sequencing all of someone’s DNA – their genome – is becoming increasingly quick and cheap, and some parents might be tempted (or feel obligated) to sequence their babies’ genomes. But this knowledge can confer benefits that are dubious at best. They may learn that their child will have a condition for which there is no known treatment; or one that will not show up until that child is an adult ready to make her own health care decisions; or that she has a slightly increased risk of developing a disorder – but an increased risk is a very different thing than a foregone conclusion. Please read this important and thought provoking bioethics piece here.

This is important for you because it is definitely worthwhile to think about the extent of your responsibilities to your child’s health and well-being, especially as that child ages and becomes autonomous.

The most popular articles on The Pulse this week were Common Cosmetic Products That May Lead To Pregnancy Complications and Depression, Anxiety, PTSD and Pregnancy: What You Need to Know. Read them here and here.

Diana Gitig
Dr. Diana Gitig has a Ph.D. in cell biology and genetics from Cornell University, and has been writing about issues in biology – from molecular biology to cancer to immunology to neuroscience to nutrition to agriculture - for the past fifteen years. She has three teenaged children.

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