My husband’s son John is a published young scientist who recently presented at the American Society for Mass Spectrometry on his research team’s discoveries about human breast milk. I have no idea what phosphorylation is, but here’s some highlights. First, their title:

Analysis by Microfluidic LC-MS/MS with Integrated Phosphopeptide Enrichment Reveals Dynamic Human Milk Protein Phosphorylation during Lactation

If you are about to nurse your baby, you might just meditate on that title. Its sure to induce a let down response.

Johnny says in his speech, “People ask me all the time why I’ve chosen [breast milk] to study, and the reason is that breast milk is a rich and varied source of bioactive species.”

“…there are a variety of species in breastmilk that you wouldn’t normally think would be there including,
Oligosaccharides and other components…”

John explains these species combine a number of biological activities including
Immuniomodulatory ,
regulation of inflammation,
mineral transport and absorption,
and are prebiotic.

He says, “These species are there not only for the direct health of the infant but also to promote the growth of healthy commensals in the infants gut.” Commensals are microflora.

While he reported on peptides and Phosphoproteins found with a spectrograph he made lovely statements that would warm every mother’s heart, such as,

“Phosphoproteins also degrade into
Opioid agonist peptides which give the infant a sense of well being during digestion.”

“Breast milk is highly dynamic. As the lactation period progresses there are a number of changes that occur.
Our first studies into milk post translational modifications related to glycosylation in milk and we found that during the first month of lactation there are dramatic changes both in the amounts and in the glycosylation amounts of Phosphoproteins …”

Okay! Now, wake up, because you don’t want to miss this next, particularly thought provoking side comment,

“During the first week when the baby’s gut is transforming from whatever first colonizes it, often times bacteria that are present in hospitals (when) the baby is born in the hospital, to commensals or bifidobacterium.”

From my homebirth midwife perspective, the thought of rouge bacteria in a newly born human gut is quite distressing. The point is that the first bacteria to arrive begin to colonize and, it seems from John’s comment, to influence the structure of the person’s gut.
Are you thinking irritable bowel, diabetes, food intolerances? Could not only what we first feed a new person matter, but also where the baby is born matter in relation to the health of the gut? I guess I’ve known that superficially, but I didn’t know it to this level!

The UC Davis team’s analysis identified 38 milk proteins.

John noted that the breast milk composition as well as the proteins change over the first month. Though the California Dairy Research Foundation is one of the funders, its hard to imagine a commercial imitation of breastmilk approaching a dynamic design. Could these signals have something to do with reduction in breast cancer rates for breastfeeding women?

From his conclusion,
“Phosphorylation is a dynamic process and it could
describe cell to cell signaling both
in the gut and in the mammary gland.”

Though I didn’t have anything to do with John’s brilliance, it is fun to share his accomplishments!

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