The theory developed in 2007 by scientists at the University of Western Australia (UWA) that breastmilk contains stem cells has been taken to a higher level with the latest discovery by one of the team's newer members. UWA Ph.D. candidate Foteini Hassiotou has proven that stem cells from breastmilk can now be directed to become other body cell types such as bone, fat, liver and brain cells. Could this finally be the answer to ethically and easily obtaining pluripotent stem cells in a non-invasive manner? And what does this mean with regard to the unique power of breastmilk for the growth and development of babies?
Stem Cells in Breastmilk – Theory Becomes Reality
Following Hassiotou's recent win of the 2011 AusBiotech-GSK Student Excellence Award for her research into breastmilk stem cells (Oct.17, 2011), Medela is proud to announce Hassiotou's first presentation of her findings of stem cells in breastmilk inEurope early next year. She will share her findings during Medela's 7th International Breastfeeding and Lactation Symposium to be held in Vienna, Austria from April 20-21, 2012.
This discovery by Hassiotou, who is part of the Human Lactation Research Group under the direction of Professor Peter Hartmann at the University of Western Australia, may well be the answer to ethically and easily obtaining stem cells in a non-invasive manner. The value in harvesting stem cells from breastmilk lies in their incredible potential to develop into many different cell types in the body during early life and growth. They have the ability to act as a type of "internal repair system." With both types of stem cells (embryonic and adult), however, well-documented hurdles exist both from an ethical as well as from a practical harvesting perspective.
Medela has been working with the Hartmann Human Lactation Research Group since the mid-1990s resulting in numerous scientific breakthroughs including overturning a 160-year old anatomical model of the lactating human breast, and a unique insight into the sucking, swallowing and breathing mechanism that babies must master to feed properly. The Group has been working on the subject of stem cells for over five years.