Investigating the Therapeutic Potential of Human Milk Oligosaccharides

2023 Seed Grant
Bridget Ostrem, M.D., Ph.D.
University of California San Francisco

Women’s Council Seed Grant

Premature birth, defined as birth before 37 weeks of completed gestation, is associated with many medical complications. Preterm white matter injury is the most common cause of brain injury in premature infants, affecting approximately 500,000 babies worldwide each year. This condition has no current treatment, and often leads to learning difficulties, seizures, disabilities such as cerebral palsy, and other problems. In preterm white matter, the premature brain does not produce enough myelin, a fatty substance that is needed for the nervous system to function properly. Dr. Ostrem’s lab have identified a compound in human breast milk that promotes myelin production. Their goal in this study is to test whether this compound rescues myelin production in a mouse model of preterm white matter injury. Dr. Ostrem also aims to identify other compounds in breast milk that promote myelination. Their findings suggest that breast milk could be a natural repository of myelination-promoting substances with untapped therapeutic potential. Furthermore, this work may lead to the development of the first treatment for preterm white matter injury, a significant global health problem with lifelong consequences.

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