Breast milk can be source for stem cells

Stem cells can be sourced from breast milk and have the potential to help people suffering from debilitating diseases such as Parkinson’s and diabetes, according to researchers.

“The benefit of obtaining stem cells from breast milk is that they can be accessed non invasively, unlike getting them from the bone marrow, umbilical cord blood or peripheral blood,” said Foteini Hassiotou from the University of Western Australia (UWA).

Stem cells from human milk can not only turn into breast cells, but also cells of the bone, cartilage, fat, brain, liver and pancreas, depending on the medium in which they are grown.

“If we can understand the properties of these cells and their role in the breast and in the breast-fed baby, we can use them as models for… innovative stem cell therapies,” added Hassiotou, from the Hartmann Human Lactation Research Group.

“Stem cell therapy is a very promising technology. Every year there are more than 1,000 stem cell transplants in Australia and over 60,000 around the world,” said Hassiotou, according to a statement from UWA.

“The limitations of the current therapies are that the transplanted stem cells are accessed using invasive methods and have limited differentiation potential,” she said.

Her supervisors are Peter Hartmann, who heads the 30-year old Human Lactation Research Group of UWA, and Luis Filgueira, an expert in cell development and function.

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