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Projects


Human Milk Metabolomics Profiling

The metabolite profiling studies encompass the studies of metabolites involved in the metabolic pathways of milk synthesis. This research will provide further insights into milk synthesis by profiling the whole metabolism rather than a specific pathway. This study will lead to the identification of novel metabolites, which can potentially be used as biomarkers or as bioactive compounds in the study of lactation anomalies such as low milk production, nipple pain and mastitis.

Human Milk Storage

Breast milk is the primary food source for breastfeeding infants. Correct storage conditions ensure that the health of the milk is safe for infant consumption without substantial degradation of essential bioactive compounds. Current guidelines are based on microbiological and lipase studies. In this study, we investigate the effect of storage at various conditions on the components in human milk. This allows further insight into the stability of these components and provides the opportunity to improve current milk handling techniques.

Milk Handling

The milk bank and neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) guidelines, requires donor milk to undergo pasteurization to prevent the transmission of bacteria and viruses to the preterm infant. Current pasteurization techniques, besides reducing the bacteria counts in the milk, also have damaging effects on the bioactive components. A novel technique using ultraviolet (UV) to irradiate milk has shown to be effective in eradicating bacteria while maintaining the integrity of the bioactive components. This study further explores the effects of this pasteurization technique on the health of the milk.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is important throughout life, however it is essential in the first year of the infant’s life. This critical nutrient, which is essential for calcium metabolism, also reduces the risk of current infections and the late-life development of autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis and type 1 diabetes. However, the level of vitamin D in human milk is very low and current practice recommends supplementation of either the mother or infant with oral vitamin D3. In this study, we investigate the relationship of vitamin D and its metabolites in infant and maternal biofluids and the effect of dietary intake and supplements on the levels of milk vitamin D. This will allow us to understand better the infant’s vitamin D intake and its role in growth development.

Environmental contaminants

Environmental contaminants, such as persistent organic pollutants or bisphenol A, can be transferred from the mother to the infant via breastfeeding. Even though the benefits of breastfeeding far outweigh the risk of these contaminants, the levels of these contaminants in human milk needs to be monitored to ensure the safety of the infants. Many of these contaminants can provide also insight into the mother’s dietary intake, lifestyle and her environment. In this study, we develop analytical methodologies to extract various contaminants from human milk and to evaluate current levels with historical findings.