Sunday, April 29, 2012

Breast milk contains high levels of anti-cancer protein

It is well-known that breast milk is beneficial for newborns, as its contents protect against all sorts of diseases. Breast milk contains a variety of substances that cow milk for human consumption does not. Italian scientists have shown it also protects against cancer, by revealing that breast milk contains high levels of an anti-cancer protein.

The protein that the scientists found is called Trail, which is a well-known anti-cancer agent. There are clinical trials currently in process based on the workings of this molecule, indicating high potency for use as cancer treatment. It is a naturally occurring molecule: Trail is present in our blood, albeit in low levels. However, the Italian researchers found that the concentration of Trail in breast milk is much higher.

Trail functions by binding to receptors on the cellular surface, triggering a mechanism inside the cell that eventually leads to suicide. This process is called apoptosis, and it represents a basic mechanism needed to clear old and diseased cells from the body. Sadly, tumours have found ways to circumvent this, but Trail renders it possible to force activation of the suicidal process in malicious cells. The protein seems to selectively target cancer cells, and because apoptosis leaves no 'mess', it is an excellent treatment strategy to destroy tumours.

It was already known that breast milk can protect newborns against forms of cancer that manifest early in life. The present study indicates that Trail is likely to be responsible for this effect. High levels of protein in breast milk would provide newborns with cancer killers, even though researchers still need to prove that breastfeeding actually results in higher levels of Trail in the blood of newborns.

The health effects of breast milk were already well-documented, and the present findings provide yet another reason to breast feed infants, instead of feeding them with other sources of milk. Because it also provides a boost to the immune system, it is clear that breast milk is an excellent way for mothers to boost their child's chances in life.
Symbol to promote breastfeeding.

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