Infant hair reveals life inside the womb

Hairs can reveal a lot, from your personality to even drug abuse or hormonal changes. Now, add foetus growth in the womb to the hair list.

In a thrilling discovery, a team of researchers including an Indian-origin scientist have found that hair can also reveal the womb environment in which an infant was formed.

They used infant hair to examine the hormonal environment to which the foetus was exposed during development – promising to unleash a wealth of new information in the fields of neonatology, psychology social science to neurology.

“We had this ‘Aha!’ realisation that we could use hair in newborns, because it starts growing one to two months before birth,” said Christopher Coe, director of the Harlow centre for biological psychology at University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“The findings raise questions about everything from the significance of birth order to stereotypical ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ behaviours in children,” Amita Kapoor, an assistant researcher at the Wisconsin National Primate Research Centre, noted.

Additionally, what happens to a developing foetus while in the womb may impact its risk for chronic disease later in life, Kapoor added.

According to researchers, hair closest to the scalp reveals the most recent information but moving down the shaft effectively transits an individual’s hormonal timeline.

For the study, researchers took small samples of hair from mother rhesus monkeys and their infants using common hair clippers. The hair was cleaned and pulverised into a fine powder using a high-speed grinder.

The hormonal signature was then read using a new mass spectrometry method. They found that cortisone, an inactive form of stress hormone cortisol, was higher in young mothers and in their babies than in hair of the older mothers and their infants.

Babies born to young mothers also had higher levels of estrone (a form of estrogen) and testosterone in their hair than did babies born to older mothers.

“Type 2 diabetes, metabolic disease, coronary artery disease and psychiatric disorders – there may be a whole host of long-term
repercussions of stress in utero,” Kapoor emphasised.  The study appeared in the journal Pediatric Research.
Source: business standard


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