Breast milk-derived exosomes promote intestinal epithelial cell growth

Breast milk administration prevents necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC). However, the mechanism remains unclear. Exosomes are cell-derived vesicles highly present in human milk and regulate intercellular signaling, inflammation, and immune response. Researchers from The Hospital for Sick Children hypothesized that milk-derived exosomes beneficially affect intestinal epithelial cells.

Rat milk was collected, and exosomes were isolated using ExoQuick reagent and visualized by Nanoparticle Tracking Analysis. Compared to control, treatment with exosomes significantly increased IEC viability, proliferation, and stem cell activity (all p<0.05). However, administration of exosome-free milk had less significant effects.

Milk-derived exosome confirmation and characterization


Representation of particle size (nm) and concentration (particles/ml) (A), and visualization of nanoparticles, including exosomes, in suspended exosomes and exosome-free milk obtained by Nanoparticle Tracking Analysis (B).

Rat milk-derived exosomes promote IEC viability, enhance proliferation, and stimulate intestinal stem cell activity. These findings provide insight into the mechanism of action of breast milk in the intestines. Exosome administration is a promising prevention method for infants at risk of developing NEC when breastfeeding is not tolerated.

Hock A, Miyake H, Li B, Lee C, Ermini L, Koike Y, Chen Y, Määttänen P, Zani A, Pierro A. (2017) Breast milk-derived exosomes promote intestinal epithelial cell growth. J Pediatr Surg [Epub ahead of print]. [abstract]

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