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Thread: Breastmilk contains stem cells

  1. #1

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    Default Breastmilk contains stem cells

    Breast milk contains stem cells

    Monday, 11 February 2008
    By Catherine Madden

    The Perth scientist who made the world-first discovery that human breastmilk contains stem cells is confident that within five years scientists will be harvesting them to research treatment for conditions as far-reaching as spinal injuries, diabetes and Parkinson's disease.

    But what Dr Mark Cregan is excited about right now is the promise that his discovery could be the start of many more exciting revelations about the potency of breast milk. He believes that it not only meets all the nutritional needs of a growing infant but contains key markers that guide his or her development into adulthood.

    "We already know how breast milk provides for the baby's nutritional needs, but we are only just beginning to understand that it probably performs many other functions," says Dr Cregan, a molecular biologist at The University of Western Australia. He says that, in essence, a new mother's mammary glands take over from the placenta to provide the development guidance to ensure a baby's genetic destiny is fulfilled.

    "It is setting the baby up for the perfect development," he says. "We already know that babies who are breast fed have an IQ advantage and that there's a raft of other health benefits. Researchers also believe that the protective effects of being breast fed continue well into adult life.

    "The point is that many mothers see milks as identical - formula milk and breast milk look the same so they must be the same. But we know now that they are quite different and a lot of the effects of breast milk versus formula don't become apparent for decades. Formula companies have focussed on matching breast milk's nutritional qualities but formula can never provide the developmental guidance."

    It was Dr Cregan's interest in infant health that led him to investigate the complex cellular components of human milk. "I was looking at this vast complexity of cells and I thought, 'No one knows anything about them'."

    His hunch was that if breast milk contains all these cells, surely it has their precursors, too?

    His team cultured cells from human breast milk and found a population that tested positive for the stem cell marker, nestin. Further analysis showed that a side population of the stem cells were of multiple lineages with the potential to differentiate into multiple cell types. This means the cells could potentially be "reprogrammed" to form many types of human tissue.

    He presented his research at the end of January to 200 of the world's leading experts in the field at the International Conference of the Society for Research on Human Milk and Lactation in Perth. "We have shown these cells have all the physical characteristics of stem cells. What we will do next is to see if they behave like stem cells," he says.



    If so, they promise to provide researchers with an entirely ethical means of harvesting stem cells for research without the debate that has dogged the harvesting of cells from embryos. Further research on immune cells, which have also been found in breast milk and have already been shown to survive the baby's digestive process, could provide a pathway to developing targets to beat certain viruses or bacteria.
    Last edited by BellyBelly; February 14th, 2008 at 09:06 PM.

  2. #2

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    Whoa! Thanks for posting Barb!!! It makes perfect sense when you think about it hey? It's going to form the basis of my next discussion with the next person who scoffs at extended BFing. What exciting news!

  3. #3

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    Wow amazing!,i cant wait to have bubs so i can breastfeed

    Thankx for the article

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    What a fantastic article! Thanks for posting, Barb.

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    I haven't stopped thinking about it since I read it Barb... I've told everyone who would be vaguely interested too! LOL

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    I think this is great! I hope to hear more in the future about this.. Keep up posted

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    This is fantastic. Who knows all the magical elements of breast milk yet to be discovered! It makes me feel very in awe of the amazing milk my body will be creating- wow!

  8. #8

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    Maybe I should amend my T-shirt to "I make milk AND stem cells. What's your superpower?"

  9. #9

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    Thank you for posting that Barb. Wow, how interesting. Isn't it amazing what our bodies can do? Like Bath I am sure I will be mentioning this next time I get a funny look or comment about the fact that I'm still bfing!

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    Good on you CM - I LOVE those T-shirts!

  11. #11

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    *bump*
    Kelly xx

    Creator of BellyBelly.com.au, doula, writer and mother of three amazing children
    Author of Want To Be A Doula? Everything You Need To Know
    Follow me in 2015 as I go Around The World + Kids!
    Forever grateful to my incredible Mod Team and many wonderful members who have been so supportive since 2003.

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    I make milk, what's your superpower?

  13. #13

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    Thanks for bumping this kelly.

    Last month I went to the ABA Breastfeeding seminar in Canberra. They had a researcher speaking about this - Amazing!

    They did say that they are yet to know whether or not the baby 'uses' these stem cells, or if they are damaged in the digestion process. Very interesting.

    In other, sort of related, news: apparently menstral blood contains stem cells too. I think I saw that on FB..I'll find a link. And here is the link: (a news article) Scientists Say Stem Cells in Menstrual Blood Could Be Used for Alzheimer's, ALS Treatments - TIME Healthland
    Last edited by Catherine; April 3rd, 2011 at 06:23 PM. Reason: add link

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