UC San Diego Center for Better Beginnings and Rady Children’s Establish Research-only Breast Milk Biorepository

UC San Diego’s Center for Better Beginnings, UC San Diego’s Clinical and Translational Research Institute (CTRI), and Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego have co-created the first research-only breast milk biorepository in the region. Established to support a wide range of research interests in maternal and infant health, the biorepository will include disease-specific and normal breast milk samples. Housed in -80 degree freezers, these research samples will be accessible at various locations, including CTRI’s Translational Research Technology (TRT) location at the UC San Diego Medical Center at Hillcrest campus and Rady Children’s.

“Human breast milk is a unique source of nutrition and we are coming to understand how incredibly beneficial it is,” said Christina Chambers, PhD, MPH. Chambers, co-director of UC San Diego’s Center for Better Beginnings, Associate Director of the CTRI, and Director of Clinical Research at Rady Children’s Hospital, and David Boyle, co-director of CTRI’s TRT Division, are collaborating on the breast milk biorepository, which opened in 2014. The biorepository will be available for researchers to study the biochemical properties of breast milk and the presence of pharmaceuticals, environmental exposures, and more in breast milk. “Does a particular agent cross in an appreciable amount? For instance, does a particular pain reliever given to a mother during or after birth get into her breast milk and might it sedate the baby?” Chambers asked.

“The collection will contain two basic samples types: one will be collected under optimized conditions from healthy mothers getting well-baby checks; the second will be targeted from mothers with particular exposures,” Boyle said. “Our goal is provide a matrix of sample types and be responsive to community needs and interests.” The whole process – filling out forms and expressing milk with an electric pump – would take about 30 minutes.

Boyle said the biorepository will grow its collection based on research needs. “We’re interested in identifying potential users of the repository and their particular scientific questions of interest,” he said. Research using the biorepository is expected to extend across several UC San Diego departments, including Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Pediatrics, and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, as well as regionally with partners such as San Diego State University. “It’s a unique effort that will serve an important research function in understanding infant nutrition, the microbiome, medications and environmental contaminants that pass into breast milk and how this all works to benefit – or not – the health of the infant,” Chambers said.

Requests for collections and access may be made through the  CTRI Service Request Form. For women who wish to donate breast milk, please contact Kerri Bertrand at kdutcher@ucsd.edu.

Source: UC San Diego Division of Dysmorphology and Teratology; this news post was edited from an original article written by Patti Wieser.