Any mother can tell you the benefits of breastfeeding, but scientists recently discovered stem cells in human breast milk. Stem cell research and treatments using embryonic stem cells, which are more versatile than adult stem cells, is controversial. An embryonic stem cell can produce cells for almost any tissue in the body, whereas adult stem cells are more specific to blood and skin types. The discovery of stem cells in breast milk may alleviate the controversy of using embryonic stem cells, if breast milk stem cells behave in the same versatile manner. Stem cell research shows they are promising at treating spinal injuries, diabetes and Parkinson’s disease.
Perth scientist Dr Mark Cregan made the world’s first discovery of breast milk stem cells. He believes this is just the tip of the iceberg in discovering the benefits and potency of baby’s first food.
It is setting the baby up for the perfect development. 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.
After testing cultured breast milk cells, Dr. Cregan discovered the stem cell marker nestin. Early indication is that these cells can be reprogrammed to form many types of human tissue, and breast milk stem cells have all of the physical properties of embryonic stem cells, without the ethical issues of harvesting. Breast milk really is the perfect food for infants, and it may even prove to cure many illnesses and diseases plaguing the human race.
Image: Raphael Goetter on Flickr under Creative Commons License
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