Tiny Fighters: Prepping and Early Stages

Johanna P -

Hi everyone! Thank you for visiting my blog for more updates!

I had a Zoom meeting with my on-site advisor, Dr. Halpern, to discuss the research papers that I had the opportunity to examine. During the meeting, I gained a deeper understanding of Necrotizing Enterocolitis (NEC) that I wouldn’t have been able to extract from a couple of Google searches.

As part of my research, I analyzed the research papers and reviewed the graphical abstracts to find a unique and suitable choice for my final product. The papers that I will be annotating broaden the spectrum of NEC, focusing not only on the biological aspect but also on the socioeconomic side. I will also explore how other illnesses or diseases found in prenatal care correspond, contribute, or coincide with NEC. During our discussion, we delved into the topic of prenatal care and how it often lacks the necessary materials to detect Necrotizing Enterocolitis (NEC) in its early stages. While abdominal X-rays can be used to identify “air bubbles” in the small intestine, the question arises: what happens when NEC is detected too late? Unfortunately, in cases where the infant’s entire small intestine has necrotized, palliative care is provided to ensure the infant passes away without pain or suffering. Although such cases are rare, they can occur, which is truly heartbreaking.

In addition, unforeseen circumstances often arise where mothers are not aware of the risks of NEC, while nurses and doctors struggle to answer their questions because there simply isn’t enough research done on the topic. This contributes to the lack of knowledge that both medical staff and families have, which also contributes to the number of cases seen in the United States. It’s interesting to note that there are more cases of NEC in the United States compared to Europe. This leads me to believe that further research is required to explore how our healthcare practices differ from those in Europe, with the aim of mitigating the mortality rate of neonates from NEC.

In the Health Sciences Innovation Lab, we will be scanning infant samples of gut microbes and bile acids. We will also look at the feeding processes of rats/mice, such as a nasogastric tube used for preterm infants or pups until the bowels and digestive system have been completely developed. I will have the opportunity to see the inner workings of those tubes and the proteins and bile acids at work that contribute to NEC during my visits to the lab.

Overall, my research will encompass a detailed analysis of the biological and socioeconomic aspects of NEC, along with the correlation between NEC and other prenatal illnesses. My visits to the Health Sciences Innovation Lab will allow me to gain hands-on experience and a deeper understanding of the feeding processes in preterm infants or pups, along with the role of gut microbes and bile acids in NEC.

I’m looking forward to visiting the lab, observing the experiments, and asking questions to deepen my understanding. This is a chance to immerse myself and engage in scientific discovery, and I’m grateful for the opportunity. Thank you again for reading!








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All viewpoints are welcome but profane, threatening, disrespectful, or harassing comments will not be tolerated and are subject to moderation up to, and including, full deletion.

    Melanie Murphy
    Johanna, I'm impressed with your choice of topic and your chosen methodology. I'm looking forward to learning what links or connections you make through your research.
    Johanna Packiam
    Hi Ms. Murphy! Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. I also appreciate the positive feedback!
    Hi Johanna, this is such an interesting topic. Are most infants born with NEC or is it something they develop after birth?
    Hi Ms. Bennett! Thank you for the question! Most infants develop NEC within the time frame of their first 2 - 4 weeks of age. However, there are some rare cases where that doesn't necessarily apply, and they develop NEC much later. Hence, why NEC can also be seen in adults as well. Older infants typically up til 2 years of age can also develop NEC later, mostly due to the onset of other health issues like a heart defect, spurring NEC to develop even if they weren't born prematurely. Thank you!
    Kaitlyn Johnson
    Hey Johanna! You've made some wonderful points in your blog posts, and I can't wait to keep learning with you as you make discoveries. You mentioned there are more cases of NEC in the United States compared to Europe, do you have any theories as to why this is the case? For example, the typical American diet vs a European diet - which would affect both mother child.
    Hi Ms. Johnson! I appreciate the wonderful feedback! I think the reason why there are more cases of NEC in the United States compared to Europe is because of the disparity in prenatal standards and the mindset of how labor, post-partum, and prenatal care are attributed. Europe has more stricter federal guidelines whereas the U.S. tends to fall on the short stick of having these policies in line for practitioners. Differences in diet is an amazing approach. I haven't considered this but it makes sense that it would play a crucial role. The more an infant is formula-fed, the more likely they are to develop NEC. In the U.S., the formula is made domestically but in the U.K., it contains breast milk and probiotics. The probiotics play an important role in the gut - the root cause of NEC. Thank you!

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