Early nutrition is key to promoting gut growth and education of the immune system. Although iron deficiency anemia has long been recognized as a serious iron disorder, the effects of iron supplementation on gut development are less clear. Therefore, using suckling piglets as the model for iron deficiency, we assessed the impacts of iron supplementation on hematological status, gut development, and immunity improvement. Piglets were parenterally supplied with iron dextran (FeDex, 60 mg Fe/kg) by intramuscular administration on the third day after birth and slaughtered at the age of two days, five days, 10 days, and 20 days. It was expected that iron supplementation with FeDex improved the iron status with higher levels of serum iron, ferritin, transferrin, and iron loading in the liver by regulating the interaction of hepcidin and ferroportin (FPN). FeDex supplementation increased villus length and crypt depth, attenuated the pathological status of the duodenum, and was beneficial to intestinal mucosa. FeDex also influenced the intestinal immune development by stimulating the cytokines’ production of the intestine and enhancing the phagocytotic capacity of monocytes. Overall, the present study suggested that iron supplementation helped promote the development of the intestine by improving its morphology, which maintains its mucosal integrity and enhances the expression of immuno-associated factors.
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