More Amazing Findings in Breast Milk: New Immune Cells Discovered

Photography: Kimberley Rich Photography

By Hannah Schenker

As if breast milk wasn’t already a miracle substance, researchers from Augusta University have found a new class of cell within mother’s milk – what they’re calling a “SWAT team of immune cells”. These immune cells are ready to take action against any invading pathogens, providing baby with essential immune support.

Their findings of these immune cells, called innate lymphoid cells, or ILCs, were based on cell analysis of breast milk from four lactating women, and were published in JAMA Pediatrics.

“These cells are upstream of the immune response … we know they can initiate and advance an immune response,” reports Dr. Babak Baban for Science Daily, immunologist in the Department of Oral Biology in the Dental College of Georgia at AU and in the MCG Department of Surgery.

These amazing cells may help protect newborn babies in the short term, but in the long term may also help a baby to develop their own protective immune system. ILCs have only been studied in the last decade, but have already been found to be important in inflammation, immunity and tissue homeostasis.

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