Unique Components of Human Milk
Human milk is a heterogeneous fluid that contains numerous nutritional and bioactive components. In the past, we identified protein, lactose, sodium and citrate in human milk as the biomarkers for the stage of lactation as well as pathologies such as mastitis. In addition, we have used fat content in human milk combined with infant test weighing to establish the fullness of the lactating breast and thereby estimate the volume of milk contained within the breast. The use of milk components as biomarkers provides a non-invasive and objective measure to understand milk synthesis, milk removal and supports the exploration of the health of both the breast and milk. Building our knowledge in this area will allow the development of evidence-based interventions that have a greater chance of improving both maternal and infant health on a global scale. Our research group is continuously seeking to standardise, redefine and develop analytical methodologies not only to discover new components of human milk but also to advance the scientific accuracy and precision of human milk analysis.
Trace metals and synthetic contaminants in human milk
Although the majority of milk components are synthesized in the lactocyte, trace metals and synthetic contaminants are likely transferred into milk via the maternal bloodstream. These components have the potential to greatly influence the growth and development of infants. This study is aimed at determining the levels of trace metals and synthetic contaminants in a historical cohort of milk samples collected from lactating mothers in Perth, WA, over the past 10 years. This project will explore the influences of rapid growth of the local population and dramatic changes in nutrition and lifestyle over the past 10 years on these milk components.
Appetite hormones in human milk
During lactation, the breastfed infant drives milk production in that milk supply meets the infants demand. The demand fed infant feeds to appetite thus exhibiting different growth curves to the formula fed infant. However, the appetite regulatory mechanisms of breastfed infants are not well understood. Appetite hormones, such as leptin and ghrelin are present in human milk and are believed to participate in the programming of appetite as well as having multiple roles for the infant. Thus this study aims to comprehensively characterise appetite hormones in breast milk across lactation and investigate their relationship to breastfeeding behaviour. Further the association of these hormones with infant body composition will be explored.
Microbiome of human milk
Beside macro and micro components, human milk has its own microbiome. However the formation of its microbiome and its influence on the colonization of the infant’s gut is only beginning to be understood. Therefore the study is aimed to characterise the microbiome of human milk and determine its stability and variability throughout lactation.