Symposium highlights epigenetic effects of milk

Apr 05, 2013

It seems the ads were right. A milk mustache is a good thing to have. Animal and dairy scientists have discovered that drinking milk at an early age can help mammals throughout their lives.

But understanding exactly how affects the body is a complicated story of hormones, antibodies and proteins, as well as other cells and compounds researchers have not yet identified.

Learning how milk affects offspring was the subject of the Lactation Biology Symposium, held as part of the 2012 Joint Annual Meeting in Phoenix, AZ. The presentations were summarized in a recent paper in the Journal of Animal Science.

The presentations focused on epigenetics, or how based on factors like environment or diet. modify when or how certain traits are expressed.

The first presenter, Dr. Frank Bartol from Auburn University, explained how certain hormones, called lactocrines, in pig's milk affect gene expression in . Bartol said lactrocrines could modify gene expression in the reproductive systems; however, Bartol said the specific effects of lactocrines are still being studied.

In the next presentation, Dr. Harald Hammon, from the Leibniz Institute for Farm Animal Biology, explained how drinking milk affects future nutrition. According to Hammon, the milk produced in the first few days after birth, called colostrum, contains that help young calves better digest and absorb lactose and glucose. Hammon called for more research into identifying these factors and better describing their effects.

Studying milk is important not just for studying future fertility and nutrition, but future milk production as well. Dr. Paul Kenyon, from Massey University in New Zealand, suggested that either underfeeding or overfeeding milk could reduce milk production in the offspring. Though the differences in milk yield were small, there could still be an economic difference for .

The research presented at the Lactation Biology Symposium could have implications for human health as well. Dr. Katie Hinde, from Harvard University, revealed how the components of mother's milk could alter infant behavior and cell development through epigenetic mechanisms. In Hinde's studies of rhesus monkeys, infants who had mothers producing milk higher in milk energy and cortisol were more active, playful, exploratory and bold.

"Milk is, therefore, not merely food that allows the body to grow but it contains constituents that help build the brain and provide the energy that allows infants to be behaviorally active," wrote K. M. Daniels et. al. in a review of the Lactation Biology Symposium.

Research into milk could help researchers better understand farm animals, the dairy industry and human health. Figuring out which compounds are found in milk and how they affect gene expression in offspring could advance knowledge in body development at all stages of life.

"At present there are far more questions than answers," Bartol said in an interview. "However, we are making progress."

Explore further: Noted researchers warn that biomedical research system in US is unsustainable

More information: The full symposium summary is titled, "Lactation Biology Symposium: The long-term impact of epigenetics and maternal influence on the neonate through milk-borne factors and nutrient status." It can be read in full at www.journalofanimalscience.org

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Supplement aids milk production

Sep 12, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Massey University research has led to the development of a calf supplement that can increase milk yield in dairy cows by up to 12 per cent.

Milking the pigeon: extracting the mechanisms involved

Sep 18, 2011

Pigeons, flamingos and male emperor penguins are all able to produce "milk" in their crop to feed their chicks. Research published in BioMed Central's open access journal BMC Genomics uses new technology to stu ...

Unpasteurized milk poses health risks without benefits

Dec 16, 2008

With disease outbreaks linked to unpasteurized milk rising in the United States, a review published in the January 1, 2009 issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases examines the dangers of drinking raw milk.

Recommended for you

Plants with dormant seeds give rise to more species

Apr 18, 2014

Seeds that sprout as soon as they're planted may be good news for a garden. But wild plants need to be more careful. In the wild, a plant whose seeds sprouted at the first warm spell or rainy day would risk disaster. More ...

Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

Apr 18, 2014

(Phys.org) —An international team of researchers, led by Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technology, has announced that they have performed the first successful cloning of adult human skin cells into stem ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Biologists help solve fungi mysteries

(Phys.org) —A new genetic analysis revealing the previously unknown biodiversity and distribution of thousands of fungi in North America might also reveal a previously underappreciated contributor to climate ...

Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

(Phys.org) —An international team of researchers, led by Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technology, has announced that they have performed the first successful cloning of adult human skin cells into stem ...

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.