Background and Objective:
Stem cells have been isolated from various parts of the human body including bone marrow, umbilical cord blood and adipose tissue. Human breast milk as a source of stem cells is less studied with limited reports. In this pilot work, we have investigated the stem cell-like properties of cells derived from human colostrum using in vitro mechanistic assays.
Material and Methods: Institutional Committee for Stem Cell Research’s approval and written informed consent from volunteering mothers were obtained prior to sample collection. Colostrum (n=4) samples were collected from healthy lactating mothers of neonates admitted in neonatal intensive care unit and postnatal wards. Cells from colostrum were cultured in Minimal Essential Medium – Alpha containing 10% Fetal Bovine Serum. These adherent growing cells were propagated in vitro and investigated for their differentiation potential into adipogenic and osteogenic lineages, anchorage independent spherogenesis and clonality under mammalian cell culture conditions.
Human colostrum was found to be richly cellular. Colostrum derived cells were capable of bi-lineage differentiation into osteogenic and adipogenic lineages within 7 days of induction. Colostrum derived cultures exhibited clonal growth and expansion under in vitro cell culture conditions. Colostrum derived cells also showed anchorage independent growth as spheres.
This study provides compelling and pioneering evidence to cite that human colostrum is a rich source of stem cell-like cells. The study took into account in vitro functional properties of adherence, clonal expansion and bi-lineage differentiation. Validation with a larger cohort and multiple profiling of cells would further open newer vistas aimed at furthering the present understanding and value of colostrum stem cells in maternal-perinatal physiology.