Mélissa, mother's milk donor

Contribute to research

Your donation of milk can contribute to scientific advances

By consenting to provide a sample of your donated milk for research projects, you will help researchers better understand human milk’s unique properties, optimize our ways of doing things and improve existing treatments.

Below are the ongoing research projects.

  • Development of tests to measure the quality and effectiveness of donated human milk

Prior to being accepted into Héma-Québec’s Public Bank, donated human milk undergoes several tests to ensure its quality. Some of these tests must be performed over several days, which presents challenges related to preservation.

Human milk contains many elements that explain its ability to prevent the development of necrotizing enterocolitis, a serious intestinal disease in infants. No test is currently available, however, to detect these elements.

The objective of the project is to develop tests that can measure the quality and effectiveness of donated human milk to better meet the needs of infants born extremely preterm.

  • High pressure treatment of breast milk

Héma-Québec’s Public Mothers’ Milk Bank uses a pasteurization process to eliminate bacteria and viruses. This method destroys components of breast milk that are especially useful for premature babies. High pressure treatment is a relatively new technology that consists of applying high pressure to a liquid to destroy the microorganisms present in it. Several research teams have shown that this technique helps preserve the active factors of the milk. The destruction of viruses using this technique still remains to be confirmed. The aim of this project is to compare the efficacy of different high pressure treatment protocols to destroy bacteria and the cytomegalovirus, while preserving the quality of the breast milk.

  • Variation in the composition of human milk over time

To be able to donate breast milk to Héma-Québec’s Public Mothers’ Milk Bank, a mother must have a baby that is no older than 12 months. This limit does not appear to be founded on the composition of the milk but rather on the fact that most mothers simply stop breastfeeding after one year. Nevertheless, some women are interested in continuing to donate milk beyond this period. Few studies exist on the composition of breast milk after the baby’s first birthday. Recent data tend to show that this milk is rich in fat and sugar, two major sources of energy for premature babies, and contains a significant concentration of proteins and protective factors. The objective of this project is to characterize the composition of breast milk from the same mother over time. The content of nutrients, protective factors and bacteria is compared, at various intervals, in the milk expressed up to 24 months after giving birth.

  • Contamination of breast milk by some substances

The vast majority of the Canadian population is exposed to per-and polyfluoroalkylsubstances (PFAS), such as perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). Toxicology studies have shown that these substances can be toxic, especially for infants exposed during pregnancy and breastfeeding. There are practically no data on present-day concentrations of PFAS in the breast milk of Canadian women. The aim of this project is to measure several PFAS in samples of breast milk at Héma-Québec, which are representative of the contamination present in the general population. The results of this project will enable regulatory agencies to evaluate the risks on children’s health from exposure to PFAS.

  • Irradiation process to decontaminate mother’s milk

The objective of this research project is to develop an irradiation process that will ensure the safety of mother’s milk while preserving its biological and nutritional properties.

The research project is evaluating, among other things, the possibility of reducing the dose of radiation to ensure the safety of mother’s milk by combining it with other treatments (for example, adding nutrients containing antimicrobial properties, such as vitamin C). The protein, fat and lactose content of the irradiated milk is also being studied.

  • Benefits of probiotic-enriched powdered human milk

This research project is evaluating the benefits of probiotic-enriched powdered human milk on the intestinal microbiota, modulation of the immune system and reduction in the incidence of diseases associated with aging and obesity.

The objective of the project is to develop a food derived from powdered human milk that could help improve the health of adults suffering from obesity, cancer, hypertension and metabolic syndrome.

  • Study of the Characteristics, Composition and Effects of Human Milk on Colitis in Mice

Human milk is the complete food recommended for newborns up to the age of six months. While commercial cow’s milk compares favourably with human milk, it differs in its abundance. The ready availability of cow’s milk makes it possible to study several of its molecules.

The aim of this study is to identify the molecules of human milk that have beneficial properties and to compare the beneficial effects of human milk with those of commercial cow’s milk in animal models of diseases affecting humans. Thanks to this research, we hope to develop a formulation that has nutritionally and therapeutically beneficial properties. 

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