subject: epigenetics

Breastfeeding Protects Women Against Cancer

Breastfeeding Protects Women Against Cancer

Cancer cure or prevention? An enormous amount of research and funding is channeled into finding a cure for cancer, yet less attention is paid to factors that prevent it. Certainly, there is not one magical practice to prevent cancer, as research shows that our cancer risk is influenced by many factors, one of which is breastfeeding. Read More...

Accounting for Lactase Mutants

Accounting for Lactase Mutants

Back in the 50s and 60s, work on lactose intolerance was often published under cringeworthy and blunt racial titles. A Nature article from 1969 sums it up with ‘Can Asians Digest Milk?’ It was also probably a subliminal non-accident that ‘lactose intolerance’—which is the typical condition for adult humans—became common parlance for a trait for which those with northern European ancestry are the real mutants. Many decades on, the genetic basis of the ability to digest lactose has been largely pinned down. As it turns out, there are different genetic reasons for the mutants’ lactose tolerance in the various populations that drink milk without intestinal incident, and the gene that confers mutant power in Europeans is only part of the story. That research history is discussed below, along with recent work that has extended the field’s reach beyond genetics. Investigations of the transcontinental basis of lactose tolerance are now providing insights into mankind’s cultural, as well as biological evolution. Read More...

The Amazing Mammary Memory

The Amazing Mammary Memory

Any dairy farmer or lactation consultant knows that first-time mothers don’t produce as much milk. The peak daily production for a first calf heifer may be around 70 lbs of milk while the same animal on its second lactation can produce 90 lbs of milk daily. Somehow the mammary gland seems to remember how to make milk and does a better job the second time. Why is that? Read More...

Milk Protein in Diet Predicts Human Height

Milk Protein in Diet Predicts Human Height

The Dutch and Montenegrins are the tallest men in Europe, measuring in at an average height of just over six feet (1.83 m). Separated by nearly 2000 miles, what might these two countries have in common that explains their above-average stature? The results of a new study [1] suggest their height may have as much to do with what is on their dinner plate as what is in their DNA. Using data from 42 European nations, as well as the U.S., New Zealand, and Australia, Grasgruber et al. [1] found that the strongest predictor of male adult height was the population’s protein index - the amount of protein consumed from animal sources, such as dairy and pork, compared to proteins consumed from vegetable sources, such as wheat. If height is a marker for the health of a population, could the answer to improving health outcomes be as simple as dining like the Dutch? Read More...

Milk-On, Milk-Off

Milk-On, Milk-Off

If we could travel along a chromosome, we would find genes arranged in clusters. Sometimes the genes within the cluster have some shared function, but other times they seem to be randomly organized. Lactation biologists have often wondered how the mammary gland turns on lactation and keeps the milk flowing when needed. In a recent study by Danielle Lemay and her colleagues1, they investigated the potential role of gene cluster arrangement and coordinated control of lactation. Interestingly, they found that the clusters of lactation genes may be more relevant to which genes are turned off during lactation rather than which are turned on. Read More...

From Mice and Cows and Kangaroos to Dairy Industry Value

From Mice and Cows and Kangaroos to Dairy Industry Value

With the development of genomic tools for dairy cows, what value do studies of lactation genomics in mice and other animals hold for dairy innovation? A recent study reported in the January 2013 issue of Physiological Genomics is the latest in a series of studies of lactation in mice that have involved scientists affiliated with the IMGC. Read More...

How Much Milk Does a Cow Produce? Depends on Early Life Conditions

How Much Milk Does a Cow Produce? Depends on Early Life Conditions

Maternal nutritional conditions during pregnancy are known to have substantial impacts on infant development. This was most clearly demonstrated by research into the outcomes of infants from the Dutch Hunger Winter of 1944. Because determination and differentiation of cell lines occur during embryonic development, nutritional conditions and other environmental insults early during pregnancy can substantially alter offspring phenotype, including behavior and general health. 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...

What comes next

What comes next

Keeping funding agencies and researchers properly in the loop, Peggy Neville, who recently retired from the University of Colorado, Denver, has published a review in which she and her coauthors run through four key research priorities in the field how the components of breast milk effect an infant's growth and health, how they impact an infant's brain and behaviour, some key issues of mammary gland biology and, finally, how milk research can help infants born pre-term to obese or undernourished moms. Read More...