Magic ingredient in breast milk protects babies' intestines

Jun 30, 2009

Scientists at Queen Mary, University of London have discovered that an ingredient in human breast milk protects and repairs the delicate intestines of newborn babies.

The ingredient called pancreatic secretory trypsin inhibitor, or PSTI, is found at its highest levels in colostrum - the milk produced in the first few days after birth.

The lining of a newborn's gut is particularly vulnerable to damage as it has never been exposed to food or drink. The new study* highlights the importance of breastfeeding in the first few days after the birth.

The researchers found small amounts of PSTI in all the samples of breast milk they tested but it was seven times more concentrated in colostrum samples. The ingredient was not found in formula milk.

The researchers examined the effects of PSTI on human in the lab. When they inflicted damage to the cells they found that PSTI stimulated the cells to move across the damaged area forming a natural protective 'plaster'. They also found that PSTI could prevent further damage by stopping the cells of the from self-destructing. Additional research suggests that PSTI could reduce damage by 75 per cent.

PSTI is a molecule which is normally found in the pancreas where it protects the organ from being damaged by the it produces. Research suggests that it plays a similar protective role in the gut.

The team at Queen Mary have also found that PSTI is produced in the breast but until now they did not know exactly why.

Professor Ray Playford of Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, part of Queen Mary, University of London led the study.

He said: "We know that breast milk is made up of a host of different ingredients and we also know that there are a number of health benefits for babies who are breast-fed.

"This study is important because it shows that a component of breast milk protects and repairs the babies delicate intestines in readiness for the onslaught of all the
food and drink that are to come.

"It reinforces the benefits of breast feeding, especially in the first few days after birth."

More information: Pancreatic secretory trypsin inhibitor us a major motogenic and protective factor in human , Marchbank et al, Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol 296: G697-G703, 2009

Source: Queen Mary, University of London (news : web)

Explore further: Researchers discover target for treating dengue fever

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New evidence on benefits of breast feeding

Aug 11, 2008

Researchers in Switzerland and Australia are reporting identification of proteins in human breast-milk — not present in cow's milk — that may fight disease by helping remove bacteria, viruses and other ...

Recommended for you

Researchers discover target for treating dengue fever

4 hours ago

Two recent papers by a University of Colorado School of Medicine researcher and colleagues may help scientists develop treatments or vaccines for Dengue fever, West Nile virus, Yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis and other ...

Tracking flu levels with Wikipedia

4 hours ago

Can monitoring Wikipedia hits show how many people have the flu? Researchers at Boston Children's Hospital, USA, have developed a method of estimating levels of influenza-like illness in the American population by analysing ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Turning off depression in the brain

Scientists have traced vulnerability to depression-like behaviors in mice to out-of-balance electrical activity inside neurons of the brain's reward circuit and experimentally reversed it – but there's ...

Researchers discover target for treating dengue fever

Two recent papers by a University of Colorado School of Medicine researcher and colleagues may help scientists develop treatments or vaccines for Dengue fever, West Nile virus, Yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis and other ...

Our brains are hardwired for language

A groundbreaking study published in PLOS ONE by Prof. Iris Berent of Northeastern University and researchers at Harvard Medical School shows the brains of individual speakers are sensitive to language univer ...

Study recalculates costs of combination vaccines

One of the most popular vaccine brands for children may not be the most cost-effective choice. And doctors may be overlooking some cost factors when choosing vaccines, driving the market toward what is actually a more expensive ...

Better thermal-imaging lens from waste sulfur

Sulfur left over from refining fossil fuels can be transformed into cheap, lightweight, plastic lenses for infrared devices, including night-vision goggles, a University of Arizona-led international team ...

Hackathon team's GoogolPlex gives Siri extra powers

(Phys.org) —Four freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania have taken Apple's personal assistant Siri to behave as a graduate-level executive assistant which, when asked, is capable of adjusting the temperature ...