A baby’s first breath is their first act of independence, but it may also 'teach' their lungs to defend themselves for the rest of their lives. Pictured shortly after birth, a gulp of air stretches and pulls this newborn mouse lung as it expands. These mechanical forces help to produce a chemical called IL-33 (coloured in blue) in a web of small regions called alveoli, where oxygen is passed into the blood stream. IL-33 is essential to helping our lungs’ immune system react to harmful microbes sucked in from the world outside while we carry on breathing thousands of litres of air every day. Researchers are most excited about how these early changes in the lungs can shape a lifelong defence to pollutants and airborne diseases, all stemming from a sharp intake of breath in the first seconds of life.
Written by John Ankers
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