breast milk

microRNA as a New Immune-Regulatory Agent in Breast Milk


Breast milk is a complex liquid that provides nutrition to the infant and facilitates the maturation of the infant’s immune system. Recent studies indicated that microRNA (miRNA) exists in human body fluid. Because miRNAs are known to regulate various immune systems, we hypothesized that human breast milk contains miRNAs that may be important for the development of the infant’s immune system.


We profiled miRNA expression in human breast milk and detected high expression levels of immune-related miRNAs in the first 6 months of lactation. Furthermore, these miRNA molecules are stable even in very acidic conditions, indicating that breast milk allows dietary intake of miRNAs by infants.


Our findings provide new insight into how breast milk can modulate the development of the infant’s immune system. This study suggests the transfer of genetic material as miRNA from human to human occurs by means other than through sexual reproduction.

Kosaka N, Izumi  H, Sekine K, Ochiya T. (2010) microRNA as a new immune-regulatory agent in breast milk. Silence [Epub Ahead of Print]. [abstract]