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The Microbiome and Fetal Maternal Health

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Focus – Gut beginnings: How the maternal microbiota shapes early life development

Pregnant individuals undergo significant physiological adaptations during pregnancy, and although many factors contribute to these changes, emerging data suggest that the maternal gut microbiome and gut function may also play a crucial role. We aim to understand how the gut microbiome might influence pregnancy adaptations, and downstream, how it could affect our development. Our research shows that gut microbes exert their greatest impact in early life, during critical stages of immunological and physiological development. However, how gut microbes participate in shaping our earliest development is still unclear. In humans, we have established when neonatal colonization occurs (during and after birth), and our ongoing research investigates how early-life factors, including nutrition and metabolic diseases during pregnancy, can impact the maternal gut microbiome, shape fetal development and early-life colonization. Our preclinical studies explore the mechanisms underlying this host-microbe relationship, examining the signaling pathways by which the gut microbiome influence maternal gut function and metabolism during pregnancy, and how in turn, the intrauterine environment shapes fetal and postnatal gut development. Collectively, these studies will help us better understand the role of the pregnant microbiome in shaping our long term health, and our risk of chronic disease later in life.