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Harnessing Cells from Human Milk; Linking Lactation to Metabolism

Primary Objective

Breastfeeding protects mothers and babies against lifelong cardiometabolic disease. Unfortunately, women with obesity and diabetes struggle to make enough milk. The biology tying metabolism to milk production is not well understood because it is hard to access the human breast directly during lactation. We have made advancements in this area by describing the cells found in human milk. These closely match the milk-making cells found in the intact mammary gland. Studies in mice conducted by our group show that mammary insulin action must be carefully balanced during pregnancy and lactation. Our approach includes the study of two carefully matched groups: those with and those without recent diabetes in pregnancy. We aim to define how elevated insulin in women with recent gestational diabetes affects breast development and function. We will also look for clues that will tell us what other changes occur in the breast in response to diabetes during pregnancy. These findings will help us understand how to design treatments for mothers with obesity and/or diabetes to improve their milk supply.

Study category: Healthy Volunteers

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If you join the study, you will be part of the study for up to a month and a half, lasting until 2 weeks after you deliver your baby. If you decide to take part in the study, the normal care that you receive during and after pregnancy would not change. You would be asked to provide breastmilk samples and fasting blood samples and to respond to two questionnaires, which are not part of standard care during or after pregnancy.


Child to Adult


- Women pregnant with their first child (singleton pregnancy) - Women who have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, requiring medication OR Women who do not have gestational diabetes (or any other kind of diabetes) - Women intending to exclusively breastfeed for at least 1 month and delivering at CU Anschutz - Women willing to complete 2 study visits (in late pregnancy & 2 wks postpartum) - Women willing to have their milk production measured and to provide blood and breastmilk samples - Pre-pregnancy BMI 27-35, Age 20-40 years - Women who do not smoke or take medications contraindicated for lactation - Women without prior breast abnormalities or alterations

Type of Study

Basic Science




University of Colorado Hospital

Principal Investigator
Jayne Martin Carli

Jayne Martin Carli

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