09 June 2017

A Japanese documentary team recently spent three days at LiU filming parts of a series about the human body. Their focus: Maria Jenmalm’s research into why children born by Caesarean section develop a poorer range of intestinal bacterial and are more often affected by allergy.

Japanska tv-bolaget NHK filmar dokumentär kring Maria Jenmalms forskning
A Japanese film team from NHK spent three days at LiU. (From the left) Director Nobuyoshi Fukuhara, assistant producer Mayu Kamide and cameraman Teru Imai watch as Maria Jenmalm and Camilla Janefjord discuss which results should be included. Photo: Daniel Windre 
Maria Jenmalm, professor of experimental allergology, has shown that children born by Caesarean section have less diversity in their intestinal bacteria during the first two years of life than children born vaginally. The low diversity was particularly noticeable in the Bacteroidetes group of bacteria, which previous research has suggested is particularly associated with protection against allergy. This may mean that these children run a greater risk of developing allergy, and other diseases such as diabetes and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

These are striking results, and it’s not surprising that the research has aroused interest not only in Sweden but all round the world since it was published in 2013. One group that saw the results is the Japanese public broadcasting service NHK, which is currently filming an eight-episode documentary about the human body and how communication between organs and cells ensures that everything works properly. One of the episodes focusses on the stomach and intestines.

Unique research

“When we read about Maria’s research and understood the significance that the gut flora, or a reduction in it, can have for the development of allergy we became interested immediately, and wanted to include this unique research in our programme. This is truly all about communication – between the body and the gut flora, which is, in one sense, the largest organ in the body,” says Mayu Kamide, associate producer at NHK.

Together with director Nobuyoshi “Nobu” Fukuhara and a film team consisting of three NHK colleagues and an interpreter, they visited Linköping, LiU and the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences. The team interviewed Jenmalm about her results and she explained the connection between gut flora and allergy. Members from Jenmalm's research group also participated in the production and talked about their research.

A visit to the Allergy Centre

Japanska tv-bolaget NHK filmar dokumentär kring Maria Jenmalms forskningFilming in the laboratory in which Maria Jenmalm and her group
carry out their research. Photo: Daniel Windre
The Japanese team also visited the Allergy Centre operated by Region Östergötland, where they filmed and interviewed children with allergy and asthma, together with the children’s parents.
“Our visit to Sweden and Linköping, and finding out about the research carried out here, has been very interesting. Meeting children and their parents and seeing what allergy means in their everyday life, and seeing the care that is offered here, has also felt important,” Mayu Kamide and Nobu Fukuhara assure us.

Maria Jenmalm is pleased about being part of the coming series.
“The team had read up extensively before the visit and were well-prepared. The questions they asked were highly relevant and insightful. I hope that the programme can get more people interested in the significance of the early gut flora in allergy.”
The series will be broadcast in Japan in the early spring of 2018. A slightly shorter version will be made for the international market, and this has already been sold to channels in, for example, France and the US.


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