By Brian W. Donnelly, M.D., I.B.C.L.C., Pediatric Alliance — North Hills Division



Happy World Breastfeeding Week!


Got Zinc?

Or, better still: got ZnT2? That’s what recent research out of Penn State University is asking.

It was discovered that mice who had low levels of the ZnT2 enzyme could not produce sufficient breast milk. ZnT2 is involved in transporting zinc, and this element needs to be in the right place to facilitate mother’s milk production. Victoria M. Indivero spoke with one of the Penn State researchers:

“This finding changes the paradigm,” said [Shannon L.] Kelleher, associate professor of cellular and molecular physiology, Penn State College of Medicine. “It is no longer only about transporting zinc into milk, but now it’s also about milk composition and milk production.”


The implication here, of course, is that human mothers may suffer from similar enzyme deficiencies. This can provide a biological explanation for why some mothers cannot produce enough milk for their baby.

“It is believed that ‘breast is best,’ but breast-feeding is hard to do,” said Kelleher, pointing out that breast-feeding isn’t instinctive, but is a learned behavior. “We believe that there is biology behind some breast-feeding issues. If we can identify women who will have trouble with breast-feeding while they’re still pregnant (by identifying mutations in their ZnT2 proteins), then maybe we can help them better prepare before the baby comes.”


The challenge is to find which enzyme deficiency might apply in our species, and, then, work on effecting a cure. That can make a bunch of mothers and babies happier … and healthier!