Breast cancer researchers at Imperial College can use small amounts of milk, which would otherwise be discarded, to analyse the cells from mother's breast ducts. It is hoped that these cells will hold clues about how breastfeeding protects women against some types of breast cancer, leading to new ways to prevent the disease.
Dr Tanya Cassidy, a Marie Sklodowska Curie EU Fellowship holder, is conducting ethnographic research across the milk banks in the UK to determine attitudes and realities of alcohol use during breastfeeding. She is also conducting alongside a semi-quantitative assessment of alcohol in donor milk.
The milk banks in Glasgow and Oxford are piloting the use of a novel traffic light system so that the babies at most need are prioritised when milk stocks run low.
A pilot study last year was launched in Glasgow to determine levels of a growth factor (IGF-1) in breastmilk and the faeces of recipients. Funding is currently being sought to expand this successful small project into a larger study.
Organised through the World University Network, the in-FLAME network made up of scientists across the UK aims to understand how modifying inflammation can reduce the risk of paediatric allergy and adult-onset non-communicable diseases, such as heart disease. Over the next year, UKAMB milk banks will start to provide samples for use in this innovative study.