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Department of Pathology


During gestation the developing human fetus will come into contact with a range of signaling molecules, including food antigens and microbes. However, whether the fetal immune system can detect and respond to such diverse stimuli remains unclear. Through this study we demonstrate a complex immune network develops during the 2nd trimester of gestation that is functionally active and sensitive to priming molecules. However unlike the adult immune-system the fetal immune system is not primed to go on the attack and instead promotes tolerance.

This study provides new insights into human immune development and demonstrates the fetal immune system is vastly different to that of the adult.

The findings of this study were funded primarily by Singapore Immunology Network core, Biomedical Research Council Young Investigator Grant and the Singapore Ministry of Health’s National Medical Research Council. This study has been published in Nature.

Immune cells are stained with anti-human HLA-DR (green), lymphatic vessels are stained with lyve-1 (green).