subject: human milk

Exploring Cells in Human Milk with Single-Cell Sequencing

Exploring Cells in Human Milk with Single-Cell Sequencing

Milk is a complex mixture of nutrients, peptides, and immunological factors, yet very little is known about the cells within human milk that make it the ultimate nutritional source for developing infants. Now, scientists have developed a method for using RNA-sequencing to study these little-understood human milk cells. This new technique using single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNAseq) sets the stage for future experiments that will gain an unprecedented understanding of human milk-derived cells and the intricacies of human lactation. Read More...

COVID-19 Vaccinated Mothers Transfer Active Antibodies in Milk to Infants

COVID-19 Vaccinated Mothers Transfer Active Antibodies in Milk to Infants

Many U.S. parents breathed a sigh of relief in the fall of 2021 when the Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine received emergency use authorization for anyone five years and older. Although the youngest children are still ineligible for vaccination, infants—who are particularly vulnerable because of their immature immune systems—have access to another source of immune protection: human milk. Read More...

Anti-viral Properties of Human Milk Oligosaccharides

Anti-viral Properties of Human Milk Oligosaccharides

A surge in viral infections this past summer caused more children to be hospitalized than usual, and it’s not all COVID-19. Other respiratory viruses, including respiratory syncytial virus, have been hitting kids hard, highlighting how vulnerable they can be to viral infections. So it’s a good thing that in addition to providing nutrition, human milk can help protect against these diseases. Sugars called human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) are abundant in human milk and are one of the human milk components that have been shown to have protective effects against a wide range of pathogens. Read More...

Primate Milk Microbiome Reveals Shared and Unique Features

Primate Milk Microbiome Reveals Shared and Unique Features

Mammalian milk was once thought to be free of bacteria, but it is now well understood that milk has its own microbiome, or community of bacteria. Although only recently “discovered,” microbes were likely one of milk’s original ingredients and have an evolutionarily ancient relationship with their mammal hosts. Many bacterial species are likely common to all. But because some bacterial strains could potentially benefit infant health by promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut or enhancing infant immunity, there may have been numerous opportunities for the evolution of species-specific milk bacterial communities. Does each mammal, including humans, pass on its own unique mix of bacterial strains in milk or is there a more general milk microbiome shared across mammals? Read More...

The Promise and Challenges of Producing Human Milk in the Lab

The Promise and Challenges of Producing Human Milk in the Lab

Breastfeeding is known to be both nutritious and beneficial to the health of infants, including improving their immunity and helping to protect them from infections. However, not everyone is able to breastfeed, and many mothers have to rely on donor milk or formula instead. Read More...

Breastfeeding May Lower Risk of Early Menopause

Breastfeeding May Lower Risk of Early Menopause

Recommendations from both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to breastfeed exclusively for the first 6 months of life were developed to optimize infant health. But new research suggests the mother’s health may benefit from following these breastfeeding guidelines as well. Read More...

How Breastfeeding Influences Viral Colonization of the Infant Gut

How Breastfeeding Influences Viral Colonization of the Infant Gut

The human gut microbiome is known to contain a large number of both bacteria and viruses. Viruses are absent from the infant gut at birth but colonize shortly after and can sometimes lead to gastrointestinal disorder. By one month of age, infants can have about a billion viruses per gram of stool, which is similar to the number of viruses present in older children and adults. But there is still a lot researchers don’t know about how viruses colonize the early infant gut to form the virus microbiome, known as the virome. 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...

Residue of Ruminant Milk Identified in Prehistoric Baby Bottles

Residue of Ruminant Milk Identified in Prehistoric Baby Bottles

It has been quite an amazing year for milk-related anthropology research. First came a study in the fall of 2018 on barium levels in the molar of a 250,000 year old Neanderthal fossil that demonstrated the child was weaned between two and three years of age, similar to the age of weaning in modern human populations. Using the same methods on even more ancient teeth, a study published this summer found that australopithecines living 2 million years ago likely weaned one to two years later than modern humans. Then in September, an analysis of plaque on several 6,000-year-old human teeth from Great Britain provided the oldest direct evidence of human consumption of cow, sheep, and goat milk. And to end the year comes a study that combines the topics of weaning and dairy agriculture—organic residue analysis on 3,000-year-old ceramic artifacts suspected of being baby bottles found fatty acids unique to ruminant milk fats, demonstrating cow or sheep or goat milks were used as weaning foods for infants and young children after the advent of agriculture. Read More...

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