An Australian scientist has discovered that human breast milk contains stem cells. This is an exciting discover since stem cell harvesting is a hotly contested debate. Dr. Mark Cregan is confident that within five years scientists will be harvesting stem cells from breast milk to research treatment for diseases like diabetes and Parkinson’s.
This also further supports the benefits of breastfeeding and Cregan is also excited about the new doors that this could open about the potency of breastmilk.
Cregan believes breastmilk contains key markers that guide an infant’s development all the way into adulthood. “We already know how breast milk provides for the baby’s nutritional needs, but we are only just beginning to understand that it probably performs many other functions,” says Dr Cregan, a molecular biologist at The University of Western Australia.
Cregan’s team cultured cells from human breast milk and found a population that tested positive for the stem cell marker, nestin. Further analysis showed that a side population of the stem cells were of multiple lineages with the potential to differentiate into multiple cell types. Meaning the cells could potentially be “reprogrammed” to form many types of human tissue.
Cregan’s team have shown the cells have all the physical characteristic of stem cell. The next step for the team is to see if they behave like stem cells.
If these cells do behave like stem cells, Cregan and his team have made a great discovery in finding an ethical way to harvest stem cells, rather than harvesting them from human embryos.
What an amazing discovery. Daily I am thankful that God has given me the ability to continue to provide breastmilk for my 22 month old daughter.