Article

Cell and Tissue Research

, Volume 210, Issue 2, pp 321-332

First online:

The epithelial cells and cell fragments in human milk

  • B. E. BrookerAffiliated withNational Institute for Research in Dairying

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Summary

The cell fragments and epithelial cells in human milk were examined in samples obtained from 30 women: 3 of these provided sequential samples at weekly intervals for 110 days. Membrane-bound cytoplasmic fragments in the sedimentation pellet greatly outnumbered the population of intact cells in all samples. Most of the fragments were derived from secretory cells and contained numerous cisternae of rough endoplasmic reticulum, lipid droplets and Golgi vesicles containing casein micelles. Secretory epithelial cells were present in small numbers in all samples and after the 2nd month of lactation replaced the macrophage as the predominant cell type. Ductal epithelial cells represented less than 1% of the total cell population up to 8 days post-partum, but thereafter they were very rarely found. They occurred in aggregates of 2–4 cells and possessed tight junctions that circumscribed the area of cell-cell contact. All samples of milk contained squamous epithelial cells derived from the galactophores and/or the skin of the nipple. Bacteria were often attached to the surface of the squamous cells. The possible relationship between the presence of secretory epithelial cells in milk and the occurrence of milk proteins in the blood of lactating women is discussed.

Key words

Milk Human Cells Epithelial fragments