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Nursing's Dr. Carrie-Ellen Briere Gives Talk on Stem Cells and Breastmilk

Date: 
Dec 6, 2017
Faculty and students gather for Dr. Carrie-Ellen Briere's Talk on Stem Cells in Breast Milk

On Tuesday, December 5, 2017, Dr. Carrie-Ellen Briere presented "Human Milk Stem Cells: A Research Trajectory in Breastfeeding Protection and Promotion" to a group of faculty and graduate and undergraduate students. 

Dr. Briere, a recently appointed Assistant Professor in the College of Nursing, was the first to publish that stem cells are found in the breastmilk of mother's who deliver pre-term. 

Briere explained that breastmilk is not only different between mammalian species, but varies between mothers within the same species in terms of nutritional content. However, she explained that in 2007, stem cells were found in breastmilk and were similar to embryonic stem cells in their "pluripotency," or ability to develop into a number of different types of cell. 

In 2014, it was confirmed that these cells could survive the gut in certain species, offering hope that these cells could help babies develop where they need it the most. 

This information is also promising, Briere says, because it could offer an alternative to embryonic stem cell research, which is highly regulated. 

The next steps, Briere said, are to research the effects of environmental factors and human handling on the stem cells in breastmilk, particularly for pre-term babies. She said often pre-term babies, who cannot feed directly from their mothers, breastmilk is pumped from the mother,  are given their own mother's milk with some things like electrolytes and calories added, and then it is frozen and fed later. She would like to see how this process affects the milk. 

Briere said she is hopeful that this information will lead to advances in how breast milk is handled as well as further research on the viability of breastmilk stem cells.