Breast milk stem cells: four questions looking for an answer

Gavino Faa, Vassilios Fanos, Melania Puddu, Alessandra Reali, Angelica Dessì, Giuseppina Pichiri, Clara Gerosa, Daniela Fanni


The finding of stem/progenitor cells in the maternal milk and the discovery of their multilineage potential, associated with some evidence regarding the ability of maternal cells to cross the gastrointestinal barrier and integrate into the organs of the breastfed neonate, has opened an intriguing debate, regarding the strict relationship between mother and son in the postnatal period. In particular, thanks to the discovery of the presence in high quantities of mammary stem cells, a new vision of maternal milk is emerging, in which breastfeeding appears as an unique occasion for reinforcing the physiological development of the newborn, putting all the formulas at a different level of relevance for the neonate. In this contribution the authors try to give an answer to the following 4 questions:

  1. is there heterogeneity and a hierarchy among breast milk stem cells?
  2. can stem cells present in breast milk enter into the newborn organism?
  3. can breast milk stem cells integrate in the neonatal organs and differentiate toward different tissues, including neurons and neuroglia?
  4. could metabolomics be useful for the study of stem cells in the human milk?


Proceedings of the 2nd International Course on Perinatal Pathology (part of the 11th International Workshop on Neonatology · October 26th-31st, 2015) · Cagliari (Italy) · October 31st, 2015 · Stem cells: present and future
Guest Editors: Gavino Faa, Vassilios Fanos, Antonio Giordano


milk; stem cells; neurons; neuroglia

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