Katherine Wander

Grant Type

Post PhD Research Grant

Institutional Affiliation

New York, Binghamton, State U. of

Grant number

Gr. 9481

Approve Date

April 25, 2017

Project Title

Wander, Dr. Katherine S., Binghamton U., Binghamton, NY - To aid research on 'The Immune System of Milk: _In Vitro_ Immune Responses in Whole Milk'

Preliminary abstract: Breastfeeding saves lives: breastfed children are less likely to die of infectious disease during infancy or to develop chronic disease. In addition to nutrients, human milk contains multiple immune factors–white blood cells, antibodies, antimicrobial proteins–which together constitute the immune system of milk. This immune system is able to mount immune responses in a child’s gut, and to enter cross intestinal lymph tissue to interact with the developing immune system throughout a child’s body. We can think of the immune system of milk as not only its parts–cells, antibodies, proteins–but their interaction: immune responses in milk. In the Binghamton University Laboratory for Anthropometry and Biomarkers, we are developing a method to measure immune responses in milk: Milk is combined with bacterial stimuli and incubated for 24 hours. Immune signaling proteins–cytokines–are measured and compared to baseline; the increase represents the activity of white blood cells in response to bacteria. We have developed a preliminary protocol and demonstrated ‘proof of concept’: in milk from about half of participants, cytokines increased 2- to 65-fold. The next phase of our project will further develop this protocol in two ways. We will customize it for research with milk, by incorporating bacterial stimuli that the immune system of milk is mostly likely to encounter: those that inhabit the gut, including pathogens (_Salmonella_) and beneficial residents (_Lactobacillus_). We will also customize the protocol for research in global health and biological anthropology by minimizing the technological demands and cost, so that immune responses in milk can be described everywhere that mothers and children live. We anticipate that this research tool will be widely used in research to describe the immune value of milk and the importance of milk in children’s health, development, and adaptability.