Thursday, May 8, 2008

a different perspective


(photo by Jessie McClain)
A new comment was posted by anonymous regarding my response to their comments. This is the last time I will comment regarding this topic since it is obvious that we are looking at this situation from different perspectives.
Anonymous states that,"there are many previous publications on stem cells in the breast, but these relate to the tissue of the breast itself, not the milk." My understanding of human milk is that it is considered a tissue. In fact milk banks in California and New York are required by law to be licensed tissue banks. (that may have changed since 2006). Blood is considered to be technically a tissue. Jan Riordan in the chapter of Biological Specificity of Breastmilk of Breastfeeding & Human Lactation writes that breastmilk is white blood..."indeed human milk is similiar to unstructured living tissue." Human milk is made up of cells and some of those cells--epithelial are sloughed off during lactation. Ruth Lawrence writes that the epithelial cells of the gland contain stem cells. So we are to believe that Ruth Lawrence never put two and two together? I cannot believe that someone with her extensive knowledge of the physiology of the breast would not have understood that stem cells are in the milk. It is written in this chapter as if it were common knowledge (1994)--no need to specifically reference it.
We have over 2000 human milk component patents and applications and we are to believe that this "knowing" that stem cells exist in human milk is new? The Pharm Woman Patent in 1987 owned by Baylor College of Medicine is about the knowledge that human lactoferrin stimulates the proliferation of the DNA in the gut of the newborn. Short gut syndrome is the result of artificial feeding. Breastmilk activates DNA that stimulates the growth of the intestine in the human newborn. What is that? Stem cells. They don't say stem cells because back then there was not this gold rush to create stem cells. The definition of stem cells is about effecting growth in cells--specifically and non-specific.
Patents are based on beliefs/research/faith. They are not sinister in itself. People have to make money. Making money from something you believe in is an absolute blessing. But with that blessing comes an obligation to let your audience know that you will be making money off those beliefs. In research it is an ethical obligation (whether you are a wonderful promoter of breastfeeding or not) to state that your view of your research might be effected by your monetary interests. No human being is devoid of biases. We protect scientific/medical research by having researchers publicly document financial biases. THIS IN NO WAY makes financial backing/patents in itself sinister. It does allow the public and other researchers interested in that research to fully evaluate the research.
On the other hand patents are about making a monopoly and about keeping information a secret. Anonymous and others in the lactation professional community believe that Mark Cregan "discovered" stem cells in human milk. In the article regarding this discovery there is a discussion of the therapies that can be used by human milk stem cells in the next 5 years. I am afraid there will be alot of patent litigation since alot of the huge multinational corporations already have a basic understanding that human milk contains stem cells (growth factors) and they own patents to the growth factors of human milk. Of course the gold rush isn't really over yet...but the secrecy of the value of human milk is gradually filtering out to the people.
Copyright 2008 Valerie W. McClain

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