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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


item Burrin, Douglas - Doug
item Wang, Heng
item Heath, Julian
item Dudley, Mary

Submitted to: American Journal of Physiology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/9/1996
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: N/A

Interpretive Summary: Lactoferrin is a polypeptide, or chain of amino acids, that is found in cow, pig and human milk, particularly in colostrum, which is the mil secreted by the mother during the first few days after she gives birth. Lactoferrin has been shown to have beneficial effects on cell cultures, such as stopping the growth of bacteria, but the biological importance of the lactoferrin in colostrum to the newborn has not been demonstrated in live subjects. Some studies seem to indicate lactoferrin might help the developing gastrointestinal system, so we decided to test that idea by giving lactoferrin by mouth to newborn pigs, since the piglet is the ideal animal model for the human infant. We studied newborn piglets that were bottle-fed formula, formula containing lactoferrin, or colostrum for 24 hours. We did not find any beneficial effects from lactoferrin on the intestine, but we did find that it improved liver protein synthesis in pigs. The implications are that if lactoferrin is added to formula, it might help human newborn infants who have liver problems.

Technical Abstract: Lactoferrin is a polypeptide which is abundant in colostrum, however its biological effect in the neonate is unknown. The objective was to determine the potentially anabolic effect of orally administered lactoferrin on visceral organ growth and protein synthesis in newborn pigs. We studied a total of 18 unsuckled newborn pigs from six litters. Three pigs from each litter were randomly assigned to one of three dietary treatment groups (n=6) and bottle-fed (10 ml/h) formula, formula containing physiological levels (1 mg/ml) of added bovine lactoferrin (bLF), or colostrum. After 24 h of feeding, we measured visceral organ protein synthesis in vivo using a flooding dose of 3H-phenylalanine. We also measured visceral organ protein and DNA mass, as well as intestinal hydrolase activities and villus morphology. Hepatic protein synthesis was not significantly different in pigs fed either formula or formula containing bLF, but was significantly higher in colostrum-fed animals. There were no significant differences in small intestinal growth, protein synthesis or hydrolase activities between newborn pigs fed formula, formula containing bLF, or colostrum. Our results demonstrate that feeding formula containing physiological concentrations of added bLF increased hepatic protein synthesis in newborn pigs, suggesting that colostrum-borne lactoferrin serves an anabolic function in neonates.

Last Modified: 08/18/2017
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