SPLASH! milk science update: June 2016

This month’s issue features double-powered milk-producing cells, a new way for milk to build bone, a one cow per poor family program, and when humans wean.

Milk-secreting Cells Have Two Nuclei

Milk-secreting Cells Have Two Nuclei

Occasionally in science a finding comes along that makes you wonder how no one figured it out before. That is the case with a discovery published in late April by Australian researchers, who showed that milk-secreting cells in several distantly related—and presumably, therefore, in all—mammals, have two nuclei. The researchers demonstrated that these cells develop double nuclei because of a carefully regulated, incomplete cell-division process, involving unusually high levels of a particular enzyme. Quickly after lactation finishes, these cells commit suicide, allowing the breast to return to its pre-pregnancy state. Read More...

Extracellular Vesicles in Milk Could Enhance Bone Formation

Extracellular Vesicles in Milk Could Enhance Bone Formation

Childhood mealtimes for many of us included a frosty glass of milk. Aside from being yummy, the wisdom of generations of mothers was to drink every last drop to build strong bones. Milk provides bone-building nutrients, but a new study suggests it does even more. The latest data just published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry by a cadre of researchers under the direction of Fons AJ van de Loo, Radboud University Medical Center, the Netherlands, links the consumption of cow's milk containing tiny blobs of cellular material called bovine milk-derived extracellular vesicles (EVs) with the rapid growth of bone. If the findings hold up in human trials, it may herald a treatment for osteoporosis. Read More...

Rwanda’s One Cow per Poor Family Program Turns Ten Years Old

Rwanda’s One Cow per Poor Family Program Turns Ten Years Old

A decade ago, the Rwandan government set up a program aimed at cutting poverty and improving health and nutrition in rural areas. The idea was simple: given a cow, a poor family suddenly has milk to drink and manure with which to fertilize crops. Today more than 130,000 cows have been distributed through the program, which goes by the name "Girinka." While Girinka has its shortcomings—including high rates of mastitis—its overall impact has been remarkably positive. Read More...

Cultural Motherhood: When to Wean Part II

Cultural Motherhood: When to Wean  Part II

The “evolved” age of weaning is a topic of debate not only among the general public but clinicians and scholars as well. Weaning, however, is not an event—it is a process. When that process begins and how long mothers and infants negotiate milk transfer varies across mother-infant dyads. While insights can be gained from consideration of our primate relatives (see Part I), comparisons across populations, and across mothers within a population, provide important insights into the human condition and the complexities of infant weaning. Read More...