subject: lactation

Getting More (Phospholipids) Out of Milk

Getting More (Phospholipids) Out of Milk

In recent years, each solid fraction of milk has been revealed to contain functionally relevant complexity that had previously gone unappreciated. The protein portion of breast milk, for example, is broken down by milk enzymes into many smaller peptides, of which at least 41 fight bacteria. The oligosaccharide portion has a long list of roles, from nourishing ‘good’ gut bacteria to encouraging proper immune system development. And now there is also some evidence that different fats appear in milk in different proportions at different times in a young mammal’s life and in patterns that may help the young mammal to grow healthily. Moreover, researchers are asking whether the fats in question also influence the health of older humans, a line of investigation that could one day lead to fat-specific dairy products for the purpose of addressing certain health issues. Read More...

Fetal Daughters Influence Milk Production in Cows

Fetal Daughters Influence Milk Production in Cows

Functional development of the mammary gland occurs during pregnancy. When dairy cows and goats are gestating twins, mammary gland development is amplified due to hormonal signals from the much larger fetal-placental unit. Carrying twins seemingly programs higher milk production to meet the needs of “double the trouble” (Nielen et al., 1989, Hayden et al., 1979). But what if fetal-placental signals aren’t just about the number of offspring, what if other features are signaled that influence milk production, features like infant gender? Read More...

Breastmilk as a Tool to Shed Light on Breast Cancer

Breastmilk as a Tool to Shed Light on Breast Cancer

When we discuss breastmilk we usually think of the baby. And rightly so, because this golden liquid contains all the nutrition, protection, and developmental signals the baby needs to grow healthily and appropriately. Research, however, is now starting to also consider the mother and ask what breastmilk can tell us about her health, the function of her breasts, her predisposition to developing breast cancer, and ultimately, the mechanisms that can lead to cancer. What is in the milk that can answer these questions? Read More...

Farms Feel the Heat

Farms Feel the Heat

For many regions of the world home to large dairy herds, climate change models predict substantial shifts in the environment. These shifts look likely to harm milk production. The hunt is on, therefore, to define the causal mechanisms by which climatic variations lower milk yields and to figure out ways to keep the cattle of the future comfortable. 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...

Breastmilk Composition is Dynamic: Infant Feeds, Mother Responds

Breastmilk Composition is Dynamic: Infant Feeds, Mother Responds

Unlike formula, breastmilk composition is dynamic, responding to milk removal that occurs during breastfeeding. This plasticity of breastmilk composition may be key to early infant growth and programming of development. An exciting new study demonstrates how removal of milk by the infant stimulates changes not only in the lipid composition but also the cellular components of breastmilk. This knowledge now sets the basis for new clinical interventions aimed at improving health outcomes of compromised infants, such as those born prematurely. Read More...

The Evolutionary Origins of Milk Letdown

The Evolutionary Origins of Milk Letdown

The production of milk by the mammary gland is a key adaptation of mammals. But simply producing the milk is not enough; that milk needs to get from the mammary gland to the nipple to be ingested by the infant. But how is this movement of milk accomplished? An amazing hormone called oxytocin. How did oxytocin, and therefore milk letdown, it evolve? Read More...

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