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Milk: Nutritional Snot


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Category: Development • Evolution • Molecular Biology • Reproduction • Science

Posted on: May 19, 2006 11:49 AM, by PZ Myers


Four of my favorite things are development, evolution, and breasts, and now I have an article that ties them all together in one pretty package. It's a speculative story at this point, but the weight of the evidence marshaled in support of the premise is impressive: the mammalian breast first evolved as an immunoprotective gland that produced bacteriocidal secretions to protect the skin and secondarily eggs and infants, and that lactation is a highly derived kind of inflammation response. That mammary glands may have had their origin as inflamed glands suppurating mucus may not be the most romantic image to arise in a scientific study, but really—they got better and better over the years.


Vorbach et al. have carried out a descriptive analysis of the elements of breast milk and lactation and come to this conclusion on the basis of three general lines of evidence.


* Immunoprotective proteins are a significant component of breast milk.

* The nutritional components of milk are synthesized by enzymes that are derived from immunoprotective proteins.

* Many of the molecular regulators of lactation are shared with inflammation pathways.


Read the Rest: http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2006/05/breast_beginnings.php

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