Spotting new opportunities for linking breast milk composition to infant health

Human breast milk is the golden standard for providing optimal nutrition for infants, as related to its suggested health benefits. However, evidence also suggests substantial variations in human breast milk composition related to amongst others, lactation stage, circadian rhythm, ethnicity, and maternal diet, where an associated impact on infant health cannot be ruled out (Mei-Yung Chung, 2014; Bravi, F. et al., 2016). One of the challenges for human milk studies is the sample collection process. The conventional sample collection method is burdensome for both participants and researchers. Both participants and researchers is looking for a better sample collection solution.

The first aim of this project is to develop and validate a novel paper-based analytical method for human milk protein and oligosaccharides: a dried milk spot (DMS) based extraction and analysis technique.
The second aim is to conduct a comprehensive and high-quality observational study among lactating women to study associations between maternal diet, human milk composition (particularly focussing on protein and oligosaccharides), and infant health, with both the conventional and DMS sampling.

To develop the dried milk spot (DMS), commercial papers will first be tested if they are suitable for the collection and analysis of breast milk proteins and oligosaccharides. Next, different chemical modification options of papers will be tested to improve the performance of papers in case the commercial ones are not good enough.

After the development, this DMS method will be validated in a real-life breast milk studies by comparing it against conventional samples.

Chung, M. Y. (2014). Factors affecting human milk composition. Pediatrics & Neonatology, 55(6), 421-422.
Bravi, F. et al. (2016). Impact of maternal nutrition on breast-milk composition: A systematic review. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 104(3), 646–662.