photo by Jessie McClain
"Research shows that breastfeeding provides multiple lifelong biologic advantages to children, including increased survival and improved neurocognitive and immune functioning."
James A. McGregor MD CM and Lisa J. Rogo
Their article in the JHL (Journal of Human Lactation) states, "We propose that maternal stem cells secreted in milk and suckled by the infant may be an important but so far unappreciated live, functional component of breast milk."
Several years later, an article in ScienceAlert states, "He [Dr. Mark Cregan] believes that it [breast milk] not only meets all the nutritional needs of a growing infant but contains key markers that guide his or her development into adulthood."
In Current Science of March 2001 the discovery of "Leukaemic inhibitory factor [LIF] in human milk," is announced by D. Kaul and Jogender Singh from the Department of Experimental Medicine and Biotchnology in Chandigarh, India. "LIF plays a major role in the host response to inflammation, tissue injury and septic shock."
In an article in Behind the Medical Headlines called, "Hamlet, breast milk and viral warts," Dr. EC Benton discusses the human milk component, alpha-lactalbumin (AL) which is in breastmilk and protects infants from infection. She discusses several researchers and their work with AL. She writes that in 2000 Svensson et al "suggest that in addition to its well recognised anti-microbial activities, breast milk might also contribute to mucosal immunity by a process of immune surveillance of the infant's immature epithelium protecting it against both infection and cancer."
Her last statement in this article states, "Optimum mode of in vivo delivery to tumours may still pose challenges, as might the supply of sufficient quantities of human breast milk, but there seems little doubt that HAMLET promises to be a major player on the stage of cancer therapeutics."
This article also discusses the use of topical alpha lactalbumin-oleic acid (from breast milk) as a treatment for skin papillomas.
Dr. Mark Cregan discussed earlier regarding stem cells, is also co-inventor to a patent application #2007005922 called "Method for isolating cells from mammary secretion." Which is about harvesting stem cells from breastmilk. While it is about a "method" there seems to be some questionable claims that would make those of us without a legal background wonder whether an actual claim is being made on stem cells. The article in sciencealert states that harvesting stem cells from breastmilk would be entirely ethical in comparison to the harvesting of cells from embryos. Yes, that is true to a degree. It circumvents the need for aborted fetuses. But there are still ethical issues involved in harvesting stem cells from breastmilk. First, would mothers be informed that the intent of the researchers was to harvest stem cells?? We have reason to doubt that mothers would be fully informed of this intent. Should mothers who provide their breastmilk for stem cell research have a financial share in any economic windfall of that research? Will this interest of stem cells increase breastfeeding promotion? Or will the need for secrecy (patenting requires a degree of secrecy) create a media atmosphere in which breastfeeding is devalued?
HAMLET is already patented (about 5 patents) by researcher Catherine Svanborg and owned by a pharmaceutical company. HAMLET's proposed use is for cancer and HPV (human papilloma virus). Yet mother's are bombarded by articles that question the validity of breastfeeding as a public health measure (The Case Against Breastfeeding by Rosin in The Atlantic). The media has played an enormous role in presenting breastfeeding as a lifestyle choice, when the reality is that breastfeeding is a public health issue. How does a consumer make a health decision when evidence of the value of breastfeeding and the risks of infant formula are surpressed. Even breastfeeding advocates seem to be unaware of the increasing commodification of human milk components (genetically engineered), its use in foods, infant formula, supplements, and most importantly in the pharmaceutical industry.
Copyright 2009 Valerie W. McClain