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DOI: 10.1038/s42003-023-04910-2; PMCID: PMC10195133


Human milk is essential for infant nutrition and immunity, providing protection against infections and other immune-mediated diseases during the lactation period and beyond in later childhood. Milk contains a broad range of bioactive factors such as nutrients, hormones, enzymes, immunoglobulins, growth factors, cytokines, and antimicrobial factors, as well as heterogeneous populations of maternal cells. The soluble and cellular components of milk are dynamic over time to meet the needs of the growing infant. In this study, we utilize systems-approaches to define and characterize 62 analytes of the soluble component, including immunoglobulin isotypes, as well as the cellular component of human milk during the first two weeks postpartum from 36 mothers. We identify soluble immune and growth factors that are dynamic over time and could be utilized to classify milk into different phenotypic groups. We identify 24 distinct populations of both epithelial and immune cells by single-cell transcriptome analysis of 128,016 human milk cells. We found that macrophage populations have shifting inflammatory profiles during the first two weeks of lactation. This analysis provides key insights into the soluble and cellular components of human milk and serves as a substantial resource for future studies of human milk.

Journal Title

Commun Biol





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MeSH Keywords

Infant; Female; Humans; Child; Milk, Human; Lactation; Immunoglobulins; Cytokines; Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins


Human Milk; Lactation; Immunoglobulins; Cytokines; Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins


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