, Volume 34, Issue 2, pp 191-204
Date: 27 Sep 2007

Host Factors in Amniotic Fluid and Breast Milk that Contribute to Gut Maturation

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The gut represents a complex organ system with regional differences, which reflect selective digestive and absorptive functions that change constantly in response to bodily requirements and the outside milieu. As a barrier to the external environment, gut epithelium must be renewed rapidly and repeatedly. Growth and renewal of gut epithelial cells is dependent on controlled cell stimulation and proliferation by a number of signaling processes and agents, including gut peptides—both endogenous and exogenous sources. This cascade of events begins during fetal development; with the ingestion of amniotic fluid, this process is enhanced and continued during infancy and early childhood through the ingestion of human milk. Events influenced by amniotic fluid during fetal development and those influenced by human milk that unfold after birth and early childhood to render the gut mature are presented.