SPLASH! milk science update: APRIL 2013 Issue

This month’s newsletter contains several articles about mother’s milk and immune responses. The topics include the role milk plays in fighting viral infections in infants, the relationship between guts, milk, and immunity, the role of epigenetics in milk production, and the changes mother’s milk can undergo in the presence of an infection.

We hope you enjoy this month’s issue!

Virus-Fighting Milk Sugars

Virus-Fighting Milk Sugars

For many years, researchers have known that breastfed infants gain some protection from certain viral infections. Occasionally, however, viruses like HIV, a kind of herpes called cytomegalovirus, and HTLV-1, which is linked to leukemia, are transmitted in breast milk from mom to babe. Explaining why infection occurs in some mother-infant pairs but not in many others remains a pressing question. Lately, a series of papers has implicated the complex and highly variable jumble of carbohydrates found in breast milk. In most cases these appear to protect infants from viral infection. But, on rare occasions, they may facilitate it. Read More...

From Mother’s Gut to Milk

From Mother's Gut to Milk

In a world filled with harmful bacteria, viruses, and parasites, it seems quite paradoxical that a human infant would be born with an immature and inefficient immune system. That is, of course, until you realize the infant benefits from mom’s immune system hard at work in mucosal surfaces. The process of transferring immunity, also known as passive immunity, begins during pregnancy with the transfer of Immunglobulin G (IgG) cells from maternal to fetal circulation through the placenta. At birth, the mammary gland takes over, providing numerous types of immunogloblulins (antibodies) and other immune factors. Read More...

The Epigenetics of Milk-Making: Why a Few Atoms Matter

The Epigenetics of Milk-Making: Why a Few Atoms Matter

Last month in SPLASH!, we learned that early life conditions can influence a cow’s future milk production (see Katie Hinde’s article). But how does this happen? Why does the amount of energy available to a female fetus or calf influence how much milk her mammary gland produces later in life? Read More...

Protective Cells in Breast Milk: For the Infant and the Mother?

Protective Cells in Breast Milk: For the Infant and the Mother?

Babies are well protected and nourished while still in the mother's womb, but what happens after they are born when they are suddenly exposed to a challenging environment full of new and invasive bugs? The mother steps in again by providing breast milk. This magical dynamic fluid contains not only the necessary nutrients for the optimal growth of the infant, but also activated immune cells. Two breakthrough studies show that these immune cells selectively migrate into colostrum and milk. Read More...