subject: breast milk

SARS-CoV-2 Research Highlights the Importance of Human Milk Immunobiology

Over the last six months, scientists all over the world have put their planned research programs on hold and pivoted to study SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2). Milk researchers are no exception. Milk from mothers that have COVID-19, the illness caused by SARS-CoV-2, could be a source of antibodies directed against the virus. Like convalescent plasma (i.e., blood from recovered COVID-19 patients), these maternally-derived antibodies offer potential as a therapeutic to help severely ill patients. But human milk could also contain RNA from SARS-CoV-2, and possibly even infectious viral material. Telling infected mothers to stop nursing “just in case” is not an option, particularly in populations without access to human milk alternatives. There is urgency in identifying both therapeutics to help those with the most severe infections and to establish informed public health policy for nursing mothers that are COVID-19 positive. The vast number of investigators tackling these questions across institutions and countries offers promise that answers will soon be available. Read More...

Malaria Antigens Occur in the Breast Milk of Asymptomatic, Infected Mothers

Malaria Antigens Occur in the Breast Milk of Asymptomatic, Infected Mothers

Malaria still accounts for approximately 435,000 deaths each year, and the substantial majority of these deaths—some 61%—are children under five years of age. Governments of affected countries, international aid organizations and foreign donors put in place various safeguards to reduce the disease rate, including mosquito nets and preventative malaria medicine for children. Yet the World Health Organization bemoans a lack of funding in this space. In 2017, for example, 15.7 million children in the Sahel region in Africa received seasonal malaria prophylaxis, but the paucity of program funding meant that 13.6 million children who could have benefited missed out. Read More...

Older Adult Bone Health Linked to Breast Milk in Infancy

Older Adult Bone Health Linked to Breast Milk in Infancy

Older adults looking to keep their bones strong might turn to a glass of milk with lunch to help meet their daily calcium and vitamin D requirements. New research suggests that older adults interested in healthy bones might also want to find out what they drank for lunch as an infant. Read More...

Feeding Method Affects Human Milk Microbes

Feeding Method Affects Human Milk Microbes

It seems counterintuitive that breastmilk would be anything but sterile—human infants have a naïve and immature immune system and their first food should be free of potential pathogenic organisms, right? But study after study demonstrates that milk indeed contains microbes. Precisely where these microbes originate and how they make their way into human milk, however, is still being worked out. There are two, non-mutually exclusive hypotheses to explain their origins: one argues that milk microbes originate from the mother’s gut and are passed to the mammary gland (entero-mammary translocation) and the other that bacteria from the infant’s oral cavity move back into the mammary gland and influence the types and quantities of bacteria passed via milk (retrograde inoculation). Because not all milk microbes are equally beneficial for the infant, finding support for one or both of these hypotheses offers the potential of modifying the milk microbiome in ways that could improve infant outcomes. Read More...

How Human Milk Oligosaccharides Can Influence Bone Biology

How Human Milk Oligosaccharides Can Influence Bone Biology

Undernutrition is a pressing global health challenge and contributes to the deaths of more than three million children under the age of five every year. Children who are considerably shorter than the median for their age are defined as stunted, and so far, nutritional interventions have been mostly unsuccessful at reducing stunting. Read More...

Human Milk Reduces Gut Inflammation after Bone Marrow Transplant

Human Milk Reduces Gut Inflammation after Bone Marrow Transplant

The human newborn’s gastrointestinal (GI) tract is immature and heavily reliant on components from human milk to successfully adapt to the novel challenges of life outside of the uterus. Recent research has highlighted the important role of milk’s bioactive components in establishing a healthy gut microbiome. Starting life off with the right mix of bacteria in the GI tract is essential not only for the development of the gut but also for mucosal immunity. It is so essential, in fact, the gut microbiome has been referred to as an ancillary immune organ. Read More...

Antibody Type, Specificity, and Source Influence Their Survival in the Infant Gut

Antibody Type, Specificity, and Source Influence Their Survival in the Infant Gut

Maternal antibodies play an important role in protecting newborns from harmful pathogens. Antibodies known as immunoglobulins (Igs) are transferred from the mother’s placenta into the fetus, where they protect the infant while the infant’s immune system is still developing, Human milk also contains many different Igs, such as IgA, IgM, IgG, and secretory forms of IgA and IgM. Consuming human milk provides additional immune protection to infants and has been shown to reduce the risk of infectious diseases. Read More...

The Fifteen Lives of Mammary Cells

The Fifteen Lives of Mammary Cells

How do mammary cells change and gain the ability to make milk at each birth? Scientists, at present, only have fragmentary information and little detail about the hierarchy of mammary cells contributing to the lactation cycle beginning at each pregnancy. A cellular hierarchy is like a family tree. It shows the relationships between different types of cells i.e., who begat whom. Knowledge of cellular hierarchies in mammary tissue could help answer many difficult questions. Which cells (progenitor cells) give rise to the cells that make milk or cells that form part of the mammary tissue structure supporting lactation? How do mammary epithelial cells cease producing milk after weaning? Which mammary cells develop into breast cancer and why? Recently, a group of investigators produced a massive molecular resource that may help answer these and many other questions relating to mammary tissue function. Importantly, the investigators made the resource available to all scientists to maximize its potential for additional discoveries. Read More...

The Bitterness of the Maternal Diet Influences the Bitterness of Human Milk

The Bitterness of the Maternal Diet Influences the Bitterness of Human Milk

Human milk is known to provide a variety of nutrients that aid infants’ growth and development and are beneficial to their health. But as children grow a little older, they often don’t meet recommended dietary guidelines, particularly when it comes to eating enough fruits and vegetables. Read More...

New Milk Biomarkers Predict Preterm Infant Growth

New Milk Biomarkers Predict Preterm Infant Growth

A current trend in the marketing of healthy foods and drinks is highlighting a product’s short ingredient list; the less “stuff” in a food, the healthier it must be, right? This may be true for energy bars or fruit juices, but when it comes to human milk, a long list of ingredients is precisely what makes it optimal for infant health. Over the last decade, as the health food aisle has increased in so-called simple and clean foods, human milk’s ingredient list just keeps getting more complicated. Innovations in analytical tools have led to more in-depth studies detailing the specific types of fats, amino acids, sugars, and other metabolites present in human milk. Creating milk “–omes”—specifically, the milk metabolome, glycome, and lipidome—complicates human milk research in the best possible way, opening the door to identifying specific milk components that influence infant growth and development. Read More...

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