Thesis subject

Immune proteins in human milk and bovine milk

Topic 1. The variation of immune proteins in human milk (preterm and term mothers) over 6 months lactation stage.

Breast milk has been considered as the best food for the neonate. The WHO advices mothers to exclusively breastfeed the newborn up to 6 months of age because of the related lower morbidity and mortality. However, in certain circumstances such as prematurity, own mother’s milk is not directly available. Currently breast milk is being collected by human milk bank from lactating mothers with the aim to feed another woman's babies to reduce child mortality. Breast milk may be especially important for preterm babies because of deficiencies in innate immunity associated with prematurity. However, a certain number of preterm milk have different expression levels from term milk. Higher levels of specific immunologic factors (IgA) in preterm milk has been found to protect vulnerable preterm infants. Besides, the milk from donated mother who has been breastfeeding for weeks or months doesn’t perfectly match with the nutrition needs of a premature new-born. Some proteins of breast milk have been reported to express higher level in early lactation than in late lactation; while other proteins show higher abundance after 6 months lactation.


To determine the variability of the breast milk immune proteome over lactation stage from both preterm mothers and term mothers.

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Topic 2. The differences of immune proteins among individual mothers.

Breast milk is one of the richest foods, as it provides all the nutrients required for the survival of newborns. Its function has always been tied to the provision of nutrients to the offspring. However, in certain circumstances such as prematurity, own mother’s milk is not (directly) available. Therefore, it would be beneficial to have another form of nutrition that has been adapted to best suit the needs of the newborn. Donor milk may be much better than infant formula based on bovine milk because of the benefits of immune proteins in breast milk which might not be present in bovine milk. Despite protein concentrations varied based on the infant’s nutritional needs, they can also differ between individual mothers due to their genetic background, age, lactation number and nutrition. The in-depth study of individual difference may contribute our knowledge on the variations of human milk and thus provide guidance on the improvement of infant formula.


Study the variation of breast milk proteome especially for immune proteome among individual mothers.

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For more information on these topics please contact Lina Zhang.