The study followed healthy infants that were formula-fed and breast-fed for the first three months, studying the babies' fecal matter. What they discovered were hundreds of genes in breast-fed babies that regulate the intestinal tract of an infant -- and didn't appear in their counterparts.
While babies in both groups grew and developed similarly, these genes weren't present in the formula-fed babies' poop. Scientists say these genes also help with infants' immune systems.
One crucial result of this study is in the care of premature babies, as one of the genes discovered is directly related to oxygen deprivation. Since premature babies often succumb to a type of gangrene brought on by oxygen deprivation, identifying this gene could potentially save preemie lives.
The study will also be used to help formula companies replicate these missing genes, so formula-feeding and breast-feeding can offer similar benefits.
Score one for science!