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'

KATHERINE S. WANDER, Binghamton University, Binghamton, New York, was awarded funding in April 2017 to aid research on “The Immune System of Milk: ‘In Vitro’ Immune Responses in Whole Milk.” Human milk provides not only nutrition for infants, but also immune protection: the cells, antibodies, antimicrobial compounds, and immune cell communication molecules in milk constitute an entire immune system, capable of mounting immune responses and directing infant immune development. To better understand the immune value of milk, this project developed a field-friendly method for describing milk immune responses for anthropological research, with the goal of describing not only what is in milk, but what is happening in milk. To do this, milk specimens were collected from breastfeeding volunteers living in upstate New York. Milk was incubated for twenty-four hours with a stimulus (e.g., a “probiotic” bacteria like Lactobacillus or a pathogenic bacteria like Salmonella). The concentration of immune cell communication molecules (cytokines) before and after incubation was compared as a measure of the immune response to each stimulus. In over half of milk specimens, large increases in cytokines (up to ~2500-fold) were evident. Increases were most often pro-inflammatory. This method is simple, affordable, and effective in describing pro-inflammatory milk immune responses. It has the potential to be very useful to anthropological research—for example, in projects seeking to understand the immune value of milk across diverse infectious disease ecologies.