subject: breastfeeding

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...

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...

Why Breastfeeding Protects against the Most Dangerous Type of Breast Cancer

Why Breastfeeding Protects against the Most Dangerous Type of Breast Cancer

For some time, it has been known that women who have their first pregnancy in their twenties, who have many children, and who breastfeed for extended periods have a lower risk of developing breast cancer than other women. It has also been well-established that the link between breastfeeding and lower risk is strongest for triple-negative breast cancer, a particularly dangerous form of the disease. Until recently, however, science has been unable to explain why. In a series of experiments, researchers at the University of Manchester and the University of Edinburgh, in the UK, have now demonstrated that the production of a milk protein called alpha-casein confers protection in human cells. Read More...

Nursing Can Provide Long-lasting Protection against Worm Infection in Mice

Nursing Can Provide Long-lasting Protection against Worm Infection in Mice

Newborn babies lack a fully developed immune system, and the transfer of maternal antibodies and other immune molecules to babies via nursing is particularly important for early immune protection. However, it has so far been unclear whether maternal immune transfer might provide long-lasting immune protection that continues beyond when babies are nursing. 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...

Fossil Teeth Tell Story of Neanderthal Life and Lactation

Fossil Teeth Tell Story of Neanderthal Life and Lactation

New parents use baby books to record the dates of all of their child’s firsts—when they first eat solid foods, take their first steps, cut their first tooth, and say their first words. These books tell part of the child’s life story, allowing parents to reminisce years later about when all of these exciting milestones happened in the life of their child. Researchers that study the evolutionary history of humans are similarly interested in knowing the dates of these developmental milestones in order to recreate life stories for fossil skeletons (albeit for the less sentimental reason of comparing to living humans). Amazingly, teeth—even those from individuals that died hundreds of thousands of years ago—act much like doting parents, capturing every day of childhood as they grow. Read More...

No Causal Link between Breastfeeding and Metabolic Health

No Causal Link between Breastfeeding and Metabolic Health

Demonstrating cause and effect can be a tricky business. In some areas of medicine, where double-blind prospective trials are commonplace, it is less of a challenge. By comparison, the field of public health, researchers often have to gather information as best they can—clues about human motivations, traces of behaviors, and diseases—and then do their best to identify the links. Scientists studying whether mothers who breastfeed have better long-term metabolic health than mothers who do not breastfeed have come up against these problems. Recent work has focused sharply on isolating the causal pattern, and has found that breastfeeding itself does not affect long-term maternal metabolic health. Read More...

Meet our Elite and Premier Sponsors