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Posted by larivers on 05 Jul 2013 at 21:43 GMT

Aware of the important benefits of human milk, most U.S. mothers breastfeed their newborns. However, some mothers have difficulty making enough milk and we don’t fully understand why. We report here the first use of a next generation sequencing technology (RNA-Sequencing) to examine the blueprints (mRNA) of specific genes being switched on (expressed) in the human mammary gland during lactation. We combined a non-invasive method for isolating mammary cell mRNA from cell remnants in milk with RNA-Sequencing. We discovered that this combined approach reveals a highly sensitive portrait of the genes being expressed in human milk-making cells. We describe distinct patterns of gene expression as lactation progresses from initially making small amounts of colostrum, then transitions to preparation for copious milk production, and into mature lactation. In this initial analysis we discovered: 1) genes highly expressed during the colostral stage (the first mammary secretions following birth) that may be important to neonatal health, 2) key genes that may control the rate of milk synthesis, and 3) potential biomarkers linking insulin resistance with milk supply difficulties. These results lay the foundation for future research focused on the physiological contributors to mothers’ milk supply difficulties.

Competing interests declared: Corresponding author of the manuscript