SPLASH!® milk science update: February 2019 Issue

This month’s issue features breastmilk stem cells, spider milk, and ancient dairy pastoralism.

Even to the Brain: Yes, Breastmilk Stem Cells Do Transfer to Organs of Offspring

Even to the Brain: Yes, Breastmilk Stem Cells Do Transfer to Organs of Offspring

What would you think if you were told that your baby is part of your body? Literally. Or that you are actually part of your baby’s body? Yes, literally. As much as it sounds more of an emotional expression of love between the mother and her baby, some of the cells that contain all our genetic information (not half) are indeed exchanged between the mother and her baby, remaining alive and active in each other’s bodies for at least…decades. And although this reciprocally occurs during pregnancy via the placenta, it also continues to a large extent during breastfeeding. After all, as Barinaga beautifully exclaimed in 2002, mother’s love is enduring. Read More...

A Jumping Spider That Provides Milk and Maternal Care

A Jumping Spider That Provides Milk and Maternal Care

High school science classes the world over teach that mammals are unique because females furnish their young with milk. The reality is somewhat more nuanced, and depends on your definition of milk. Indeed, there are various specialized food sources that a few non-mammals provide their offspring, among these the antibody-containing epidermal mucus found in some fish and trophic eggs in amphibians (as well as other classes of animal). In a recent issue of the journal Science, a group of researchers associated mainly with the Chinese Academy of Sciences report on the curious life of an ant-mimicking jumping spider, Toxeus magnus. They find that females of this species produce protein-rich droplets for their offspring to consume that are essential for the youngest spiders’ survival. Curiously, female offspring continue to drink this milk even after they have become sexually mature. Read More...

Dairy Pastoralism in Mongolia Began at Least 3,300 Years Ago

Dairy Pastoralism in Mongolia Began at Least 3,300 Years Ago

People have been migrating since the dawn of human existence. It’s in our nature to survive and that drove generations of ancient humans to walk to nearly all corners of the world. The history of human migration is inscribed in detail within the DNA code of modern-day people. It is a fantastic book to read, full of drama and intrigue. One chapter contains descriptions of an ancient population migration into Europe that resulted in major cultural changes. Scientists recently concluded that the Eurasian steppe was the ancient cradle for today’s European populations and it was also one of the primary origins of dairy pastoralism. How and why ancient Eurasian populations migrated into Europe are being revealed by scientists using new technologies that trace massive ancient population migrations, changes in diets, and the movement of dairy pastoralism beginning about 4,500 years ago. The scientists along the way have answered one of the most debated questions of history. How did new ideas, especially knowledge of dairying, spread in ancient populations? Was it due to population migration and then replacement of indigenous populations or the adoption of new ideas taken from neighbors? The answer is both, but in different places. Read More...

Infants Gain More Weight When Bottle Fed Mom’s Milk

Infants Gain More Weight When Bottle Fed Mom’s Milk

If you want to understand how an infant’s diet influences its health, you might ask, “What did the infant eat?” But the results of a new study on infant diet and weight gain suggest that this simple question is no longer sufficient; in addition to asking what, we need to be asking how, and for how long. Newly published results from over 2,500 mother-infant pairs demonstrate that the longer a mother is able to directly provide breast milk, the more closely the infant’s rate of weight gain over the first 12 months of life matches the World Health Organization’s (WHO) standards. Considering the prevalence of pumping among many breastfeeding mothers, these novel findings shouldn’t be reported without consideration of the many positive outcomes associated with feeding expressed breast milk. Read More...

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