Short bowel syndrome (SBS) remains the leading cause of neonatal intestinal failure. Milk fat globule epidermal growth factor-8 (MFG-E8), present in human milk, has homology with epidermal growth factor (EGF), known to enhance adaptation in SBS. In this pilot study, the role of oral MFG-E8 treatment in SBS was explored in neonatal piglets.
Neonatal piglets underwent 75% intestinal resection, either distal (jejunal-colonic [JC] anastomosis) or mid-intestinal (jejunal-ileal [JI] anastomosis). Piglets were randomized to intragastric treatment with MFG-E8 (5 mg/kg per day) or saline and were maintained on parenteral nutrition and enteral nutrition for 7 days. Adaptation was assessed by intestinal length and weight, histopathology, fecal fat analysis and RT-qPCR analysis of mucosal transcripts, including growth factors.
JI piglets demonstrated intestinal lengthening (P < 0.001), 2-fold greater in ileum than jejunum (P
= 0.02), where lengthening was increased by MFG-E8 treatment (P = 0.02). JC piglets did not exhibit jejunal lengthening, regardless of treatment. Fat absorption was greater for JI piglets (P = 0.02), unaffected by treatment. In JI piglets, expression of Egf was increased in the ileum (P < 0.01) and MFG-E8 treatment increased Egfr (receptor) expression (P = 0.02).
MF-EG8 demonstrated site-specific trophic effects, only with JI anatomy. This may limit the utility of this treatment for SBS, except for rare patients with retained ileum. The mechanisms of these site-specific effects, however, and the role of MFG-E8 in neonatal gut growth and in diseases, such as necrotizing enterocolitis that commonly target ileum, warrant further exploration.