Breast milk (BM) is considered as a reference for infant nutrition. The role of bioactive components, such as cytokines, hormones, growth factors (GFs) and fatty acids (FAs) is poorly known, but they might be implicated in immune response development.

The aim of this study was to identify the lipid profile and the spectrum of cytokines and neuronal GF in BM samples and analyse the influence of gestational age and lactation time on these components. This study used a longitudinal prospective method for the characterization of cytokines, FAs and GFs global profiles in 120 BM samples from 40 healthy mothers (20 preterm and 20 term) collected as colostrum, transitional and mature milk. The cytokines were analysed by protein array (Ray Bio® Human Cytokine Array G6. Ray Biotech, Inc. Norcross, GA, USA) and the FAs were analysed by gas chromatography.

The FA profile was similar between the term and the preterm BM samples. Omega-3-α-linoleic and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and omega-6-linoleic acid were the most abundant in the term and preterm samples during lactation. Omega-3 ETA and omega-3 EPA we observed exclusively in the preterm samples. The cytokine profile showed a different trend based on gestational age. A significantly higher expression of neurotrophic factors was found in the mature preterm milk samples as compared to the mature term samples.

Our study is the first to identify the influence and interactions of perinatal factors on cytokine, GFs and FAs in human milk.

PMID: 26492267

See following website for full manuscript.