Lactation and Breast Milk—the Appropriate System for Postnatal Programming and Disease Prevention

A special issue of Nutrients (ISSN 2072-6643). This special issue belongs to the section "Nutrition in Women".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 15 July 2024 | Viewed by 105

Special Issue Editors

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Guest Editor
Department of Dermatology, Environmental Medicine and Health Theory, University of Osnabrück, Am Finkenhügel 7a, D-49076 Osnabrück, Germany
Interests: milk exosomes; milk-derived non-coding RNAs; milk signaling; epigenetic regulation; dietary effects on acne; milk consumption and diseases of civilization

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

During the last few decades, the scientific understanding of breast milk has evolved from being seen as a food source to being a complex system of maternal signaling and programming for the developing infant. Breast milk not only provides macro- and micronutrients but also important biomolecules with signaling functions, such as special lipids, signaling proteins found in milk fat globules, hormones, antibodies, and specialized carbohydrates that are crucial for the development of the infant’s intestinal microbiome. Additionally, breast milk provides a myriad of extracellular vesicles, including exosomes, which transport various small non-coding RNAs. These include microRNAs, circular RNAs, and long non-coding RNAs. These RNAs play key roles in regulating gene expression and epigenetic processes that are essential for the postnatal development of tissues and organs in the growing infant. Emerging evidence suggests that breast milk-derived exosomal microRNAs can modify gene expression in the infant. The most abundant microRNA found in breast milk and milk exosomes is microRNA-148a-3p, which suppresses DNA methyltransferase 1 (DNMT1) and p53 (TP53). This microRNA may therefore play a role in controlling postnatal epigenetic DNA methylation-dependent gene regulation as well as p53-dependent transcription. Breast milk can be seen as a mammalian program, a type of software, provided by the maternal lactation genome, which has been optimized over millions of year of mammalian evolution. According to the World Health Organization, breast milk is considered the ideal food for infants. However, this definition does not fully acknowledge the programming impact of breast milk on postnatal gene regulation of the infant that plays a critical role for the prevention of diseases of civilization.

The purpose of this Special Issue is to provide up-to-date evidence demonstrating that breast milk serves dual functions as both a source of nutrition and as a postnatal epigenetic programming system. This programming system is crucial for the appropriate development of the gastrointestinal, immunological, metabolic, and neuroendocrine systems, and ultimately helps to prevent diseases such as obesity, diabetes mellitus, and cancer. Breast milk ensures that the infant receives species- and genome-specific feeding and programming, which cannot be replicated by artificial substitutes. After birth, the infant´s development is not yet complete. The infant´s transition from the intrauterine environment to the extrauterine life is continued by the tight control of the mammary glands. This allows for both breast-mediated feeding and programming. No other mammalian species allows for interference with this physiological program during the lactation period, except for civilized humans who have unfortunately lost their connection to their own genomic control for species-specific postnatal development. As a result, they struggle with increasing rates of non-communicable diseases associated with modern civilization.

We would be delighted to receive your manucript as an expert in the field supporting our major focus on breast milk-derived infant programming.

Prof. Dr. Bodo Melnik
Prof. Dr. Ralf Weiskirchen
Guest Editors

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  • breast milk
  • milk exosomes
  • milk-derived RNAs
  • milk signaling
  • gene regulation
  • signal transduction
  • nutrigenomics
  • western diet

Published Papers

This special issue is now open for submission.
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