(ORDO NEWS) — Biologists have found that human milk contains viable maternal cells that can play an important role in building children’s immunity and in the development of aggressive forms of breast cancer. The results of the study were published in the scientific journal Nature Communications.
“Studying these cells will help us understand how milk is produced, why some women have problems with feeding, and give us new ways to deal with these difficulties,” said Alesia-Jane Twigger from the University of Cambridge, who participated in the study.
In recent years, scientists have been actively investigating how cow and human milk affect the functioning of the body of children and adults. Research shows that the enzymes found in milk help the body fight germs and inflammation. In addition, milk plays an important role in the formation of the intestinal microflora in newborns.
When processing milk or preparing dry mixes for an infant, a significant proportion of these beneficial properties is lost. According to experts from the World Health Organization, several hundred thousand babies die in the first days and months of their lives due to the fact that their mothers do not produce enough milk.
As Twigger and her colleagues note, while doctors do not have a clear understanding of the reasons that lead to problems with milk production and how to deal with it. In the new study, scientists took a big step towards answering these questions by studying the chemical composition of dozens of milk samples.
Scientists were interested in what signal molecules, including RNA strands, can be present in milk and affect the functioning of the cells of the digestive system and other organs of babies.
The study of these molecules unexpectedly indicated that there are many living cells in mother’s milk that produce hormones and other molecules. Previously, scientists believed that only dead cells of the mammary glands can be found in milk.
The living “milk” cells discovered by Twigger and her colleagues could be divided into two large groups. One of them was similar in properties to mammary gland cells, while others were various components of the immune system.
Both those and other cells, as suggested by Twigger and her colleagues, play an important role in the formation of the microflora and immunity of children.
In addition, these cells may be associated with the most aggressive forms of breast cancer, which are accompanied by the appearance of metastases in other organs and body parts of women.
Therefore, biologists suggest that the subsequent study of these cells and possible disturbances in their vital activity will help create new methods for diagnosing and treating this type of tumor.
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