Sweet Surprise: Breast Milk Sugars Tackle Chemo’s ‘Violent’ Side Effects

By: | December 31st, 2023

Chemotherapy, vital for treating cancer, often brings debilitating side effects. The most common and distressing side effect is mucositis, a condition that causes nausea, fatigue, hair loss, weakened immunity, ulceration of the digestive tract, severe inflammation, and emotional strain.

For decades, researchers have sought ways to prevent or better manage mucositis during cancer treatment

Now, scientists may have found a surprising potential remedy for some of chemotherapy’s most severe side effects, and it’s from a rather unlikely source: human breast milk.

Researchers at Vanderbilt University have unearthed a wealth of sugars in human breast milk that could offer various health and industrial advantages, potentially including the mitigation of chemotherapy side effects.

Researchers discovered that a sugar known as 2’-fucosyllactose in human breast milk can selectively eliminate harmful bacteria while promoting the growth of beneficial ones.

Beyond Cancer Treatment, the Surprising Applications of Breast Milk Sugars

Breast milk sugars demonstrate potential in preventing the formation of bacterial biofilms, slimy layers that contribute to issues like tooth decay and increased drag on ships.

In the shipping industry, where drag hampers efficiency, billions are spent annually to remove these biofilms.

The study indicates that breast milk sugars can impede biofilm formation, prompting researchers to aim for mass-scale production of these sugars. The goal is to develop enzymes as well as engineered microbes that could be used to coat boats, enhancing efficiency and potentially revolutionizing practices in the shipping industry.

Nidhi Goyal

Nidhi is a gold medalist Post Graduate in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences.

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