A team of researchers fromCambridge University observed the cellular changes that occur in human breast tissue in the breastfeeding women with the living cells of breast milk and women who are not breastfeeding, offering information on the relationship between pregnancy, lactation and breast cancer.
It studio was conducted by researchers from the Wellcome-MRC Cambridge Stem Cell Institute (CSCI) and the Cambridge University Department of Pharmacology and was published in the scientific journal Nature Communications.
Live cells in breast milk and correlation with breast cancer: this is what the research says
Breast tissue is dynamic and changes over time during puberty, pregnancy, breastfeeding and aging. Research carried out by the Cambridge University team of experts has focused on the changes that occur during breastfeeding by studying the cells present in human milk.
This research, led by Dr. Alecia-Jane Twigger of CSCI, found that milk cells, once thought to be dead or dying, are actually very much alive. These live cells offer researchers the ability to study not only the changes that occur in breast tissue during breastfeeding, but also information on a potential early indicator of future breast cancer development.
“I believe that by studying human milk cells, we will be able to answer some of the more fundamental questions about the function of the mammary glands such as: How is milk produced? Why do some women struggle to produce milk? and what strategies can be employed to improve breastfeeding outcomes for women? ” said Dr. Alecia-Jane Twigger del Wellcome-MRC Cambridge Stem Cell Institute who conducted the study.
Researchers collected voluntary breast milk samples from breastfeeding women, as well as non-breastfeeding breast tissue samples donated by women who chose to undergo cosmetic breast reduction surgery. Using single-cell RNA sequencing analysis, the team conducted a new comparison of the composition of breast cells taken using these two methods, identifying the distinctions between breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding human mammary glands.
While access to breast tissue for the study relied on donors who had already undergone surgery, breast milk samples were much easier to acquire. Breast milk donors have been involved through midwives or women’s networks (a feat made more difficult by the pandemic) and agree to share their samples over time. Typical daily production for nursing women is between 750 and 800 mL, and the sample size for the Twigger research averages only 50 mL, an amount that can hold hundreds of thousands of cells for the study.
By collecting these samples donated by breastfeeding women, samples now known to contain live, viable cells, the researchers had the opportunity to capture dynamic cells in a non-invasive way. This greater ease of access to breast cells may open the door for more women’s health studies in the future.
“The first time Alecia told me she found live cells in milk, I was surprised and thrilled with the possibilities. We hope this discovery will enable future studies on the early stages of breast cancer“, he has concluded Dr. Walid Khaled, Wellcome- MRC Cambridge Stem Cell Institute and Cambridge University Pharmacology Department, also involved in the study.
Human milk is “live” and contains cells of both bacterial and host origin. Typically, the presence of bacteria in milk was considered an indication of infection. However, this notion may need revision because culture-dependent and independent techniques more recently revealed that human milk produced by healthy women contains live cells and a diverse microbial community that includes> 200 philotypes. A central milk microbiome with a limited number of operational taxonomic units accounts for approximately 50% of relative abundance.
The other 50% of the bacteria in breast milk appear to be highly personalized, suggesting that their community structure may be modified by the mother’s environmental exposure. It is not clear how these bacteria reach the mammary gland and are incorporated into the milk.
The combined results of various studies suggest that some bacteria present in the maternal gastrointestinal tract could reach the mammary gland during pregnancy and lactation through a mechanism involving intestinal immune cells, therefore, modulation of the maternal gastrointestinal microbiota during pregnancy and lactation. breastfeeding could have a direct effect on the baby’s health through its incorporation into milk.
Several studies focused on bacterial cells, and emerging research data from metagenomic, transcriptomic and metabolomic research focusing on the role of human milk bacteria in health and disease was shared. The presentation of this research focused on maternal immune cells because their numbers and composition respond rapidly to mammary gland infections and other maternal infections, but also to childhood infections.
Although the maternal response to infant infection is not fully understood, it has been proposed that the retrograde ductal flow associated with the expulsion of milk during breastfeeding is a route for the transfer of pathogens derived from the infant through the nipple. , which can locally stimulate an immune response in the mother’s mammary gland.
Clearly, this has important implications for both mother and baby. Studies have put a lot of emphasis on recently discovered live human milk stem cells. Exciting new advances show that these cells are viable and functional when ingested, suggesting potential functions in the breastfed baby.
Not only that, their ability to differentiate into cells from all 3 germ layers makes them a candidate for stem cell related therapies. The symposium presented the latest findings on milk stem cell research and applications from the world’s leading research group in this area.