Scientific Research Project Title

Mode of delivery - effects on future health and new microbiota-directed therapeutics

Research Institution

University of Copenhagen


Laboratory animal science, immunology


Phone: 35333756

Research leader

Camilla Hartmann Friis Hansen

Associate Professor,, PhD, born 1981

Project title

Cesarean section and its role in gut microbiota, the immune system and future health

What is your project about?

The rate for cesarean section is increasing and it is an alarming trend as kids born by cesarean section are more likely to develop chronic diseases such as asthma and allergy. This could be due to a different colonization of gut bacteria in the infant gut, as cesarean section is a sterile procedure compared to a natural birth. I have previously shown that this difference in the gut microbiota also occurs in mice, which impairs the development of a well-functioning immune system. The aim of the project is therefore to use the mouse model to investigate whether the cesarean section associated gut microbiota contributes to the high risk of disease and to clarify the underlying mechanisms. In addition, synthetic components, unique for human breast milk, will be tested for a preventative effect on diseases accelerated by cesarean section.

Kejsersnit - Camilla Hartmann Friis Hansen - Videnskab_shutterstock_51311368.jpg

How did you become interested in your particular field of research?

I have since the beginning of my research career investigated the role of the bacteria that first colonize the gut in the early life. I find its importance for our immune system, future weight gain, development of chronic diseases, and even our behavior extremely fascinating. Human studies have shown a significant association between mode of delivery and several chronic diseases, but new methods were strongly needed to clarify cause and effect. When I discovered the applicability of the mouse model, I took advantage of that and my expertise in germ-free mice to permit further investigations

What are the scientific challenges and perspectives in your project?

Cesarean section in mice is different from the procedure in humans and the mice are not born into the same sterile conditions. They are, in contrast to human infants, exposed to the mother’s gut bacteria, though later than mice born naturally. To improve the translational perspective we will transplant human intestinal bacteria from kids born by cesarean section into germ-free mice that otherwise lack bacteria. This will allow us to investigate whether their altered gut microbiota increases the risk of developing asthma and allergy. The mice will also be used to test various dietary components for their ability to modify the microbiota, which is crucial for us to find new ways to restore the intestinal environment to such an extent that secures the infants future health.

What is your estimate of the impact, which your project may have to society in the long term?

The project will clarify if a causative link between cesarean section, an altered gut microbiota, and an increased risk of allergy and asthma really exists. This knowledge is necessary to create strong arguments for the society to reduce the rate of cesarean section. In addition, we will get the necessary knowledge on the underlying mechanisms to enable proper advice and guidance for the most important recipients – the 1 in 5 women around the world giving birth by cesarean section.

Which impact do you expect the Sapere Aude programme will have on your career as a researcher?

The Sapere Aude programme provides me with the opportunity to establish a strong and unique collaboration with world-leading researcher within pediatrics, which is critical to achieve results at the highest scientific level with a more relevant clinical perspective. Collaboration with the clinics will ease the process of testing new treatment strategies and preventive measures. In addition, the programme is personally important for me to establish my career and gives be the opportunity to head a leading research group among international experts within the field.

Background and personal life

I live with my American husband and our son at Frederiksberg. Our free-time flies fast as in most families with small kids, cooking, cleaning, and playing. However, I believe that we more often than usual have to discuss how much dirt our 2 year old is allowed to ingest in order to develop a proper and diverse gut microbiota. So far, we are all free of allergies, so we cannot be completely wrong. We are also often exposed to new exotic bacteria when we travel to Houston to visit the family in law, where we are treated well with fish and seafood – the favorite food of the entire family.

City of your current residence
Frederiksberg, Denmark

High school
Student from Nørre Gymnasium in Mørkhøj