SPLASH! milk science update: January 2014 issue

Welcome to SPLASH! 2014! We’re jumping off into 2014 with articles about milk metabolites, milk and memory, the healing power of milk, and how rising environmental temperatures affect milk production in cattle.

Milk Makes the Most Out of By-Products

Milk Makes the Most Out of By-Products

How do infants get their nutritional and developmental needs without having fully developed intestinal systems? Newborn babies are still developing in many ways, and although maturation of their gut is a high priority, it takes a while for their digestive system to work as it does in an adult. Meanwhile they need to be supplied with nutrients, growth factors, and both the beneficial gut microbes and the ingredients they need to thrive (so that they remain with that person over a lifetime!), all while breastfeeding. To achieve this, breast milk has a complex mixture of components that support all of these requirements. Read More...

Of Mice and Milk, Mind and Memory

Of Mice and Milk, Mind and Memory

Model animal systems allow researchers different opportunities for understanding biological phenomena. Depending on the study system, precise pathways from gene to protein to phenotype can be investigated. C. elegans and Drosophila melanogaster are the heavyweight champions in this domain, but when it comes to lactation, as non-mammals they are of limited use. Enter the lab rat, or mouse in this case. Mice allow researchers to systematically investigate mechanistic pathways through which mother's milk influences offspring neurobiology, immune function, and behavior. And a recent paper in Nature Neuroscience by Liu and colleagues (2013) investigated these in concert with the precision and dedication of a neuroscientist Sherlock Holmes. Read More...

A Purpose for Spilled Milk

A Purpose for Spilled Milk

In the first weeks after giving birth, mothers are a mess of dripping milk. Babies learn how to feed while the mother's mammary glands learn how much milk to produce during what can be a roller coaster of too-much and too-little as the milk supply adjusts. Milk commonly spills on the baby and can even spray the baby's face when he or she unlatches after the flow has started. Does getting milk all over the baby have a purpose? As crazy as that sounds, maybe. Recent studies explored the use of human milk for treatment of diaper dermatitis and eye infections--both potential advantages of spilled milk. Read More...

Farms Feel the Heat

Farms Feel the Heat

For many regions of the world home to large dairy herds, climate change models predict substantial shifts in the environment. These shifts look likely to harm milk production. The hunt is on, therefore, to define the causal mechanisms by which climatic variations lower milk yields and to figure out ways to keep the cattle of the future comfortable. Read More...