More basic biology of milk-making

I was super excited to see this article reporting on research coming out of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. So many women I see struggle with low milk supply and there are very few answers for them. There is just a lot of basic biology of making milk that we don’t understand. This research is trying to get at some of those answers. From the news release I followed the link to the original journal paper and got even more excited. This paper by Danielle Lemay and colleagues is awesome for several reasons:
– It is a new way to investigate how milk is made. They are looking at the genes that are active during different stages of milk production by getting RNA from milk fat globules. As I understand it, it is sort of a sampling of what’s going on inside the milk-making cells. It is a way to find out what proteins these cells are busy making at different times. Since the researchers are using expressed milk it is easy for the women that participate in the study to give samples (unlike most other ways of getting breast cells for study!).
– They find a connection between insulin and what milk-making cells are doing. I’m still working my way through the paper and don’t entirely understand what they’re saying yet but this general connection is exciting. It could lead to some practical ways to help women that are frustrated with low milk supply. It could also help explain why so many women seem to struggle with production. A quote from one of the authors : “Considering that 20 percent of women between 20 and 44 are prediabetic, it’s conceivable that up to 20 percent of new mothers in the United States are at risk for low milk supply due to insulin dysregulation.” (Laurie Nommsen-Rivers)
– They published in a peer-reviewed, open-access journal, PLOS ONE. That means that anyone can easily access their research – even people like me (or maybe you) that aren’t currently affiliated with a university library or have enough disposable income to purchase journal articles.

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