Deseret News: What traits do pregnant women and roaches have in common?

UC study uses insects to examine how pregnancy affects body's immune system

The Deseret News highlighted a study by biologists at the University of Cincinnati that looked at how the immune system of a live-bearing insect changes to prepare for giving birth.

UC College of Arts and Sciences Professor Joshua Benoit led the study that sequenced the genome of the Pacific beetle-mimic cockroach. Unlike many cockroaches, this insect does not lay eggs but gives birth to more developed babies as a survival strategy.

“The class of predators really narrows when you give birth to live young,” Benoit said.

But live births require a far bigger parental commitment.

“It’s a pretty big investment. They can produce 10 juveniles per reproductive cycle compared to 70 to 150 eggs for other roaches,” Benoit said. “So their strategy is to produce fewer higher-quality individuals compared to more individuals with less investment.”

UC's study found that pregnant roaches undergo profound physical and physiological changes to accommodate their brood.

The findings could help shed light on fibromyalgia and other autoimmune disorders in people, Benoit said.

The study was published in the journal iScience.

Read the Deseret News story.

Featured image at top: UC Professor Joshua Benoit holds a container of beetle-mimic cockroaches in his biology lab. Photo/Andrew Higley/UC Marketing + Brand

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