Exploring cell surface markers and cell-cell interactions of human breast milk stem cells

Pierpaolo Coni, Monica Piras, Marco Piludu, Joanna Izabela Lachowicz, Anna Matteddu, Stefano Coni, Alessandra Reali, Vassilios Fanos, Mariusz Jaremko, Gavino Faa, Giuseppina Pichiri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: Breakthrough studies have shown that pluripotent stem cells are present in human breast milk. The expression of pluripotency markers by breast milk cells is heterogeneous, relating to cellular hierarchy, from early-stage multi-lineage stem cells to fully differentiated mammary epithelial cells, as well as weeks of gestation and days of lactation. Design and methods: Here, we qualitatively analyze cell marker expression in freshly isolated human breast milk cells, without any manipulation that could influence protein expression. Moreover, we use electron microscopy to investigate cell-cell networks in breast milk for the first time, providing evidence of active intercellular communication between cells expressing different cellular markers. Results: The immunocytochemistry results of human breast milk cells showed positive staining in all samples for CD44, CD45, CD133, and Ki67 markers. Variable positivity was present with P63, Tβ4 and CK14 markers. No immunostaining was detected for Wt1, nestin, Nanog, OCT4, SOX2, CK5, and CD34 markers. Cells isolated from human breast milk form intercellular connections, which together create a cell-to-cell communication network. Conclusions: Cells freshly isolated form human breast milk, without particular manipulations, show heterogeneous expression of stemness markers. The studied milk staminal cells show “pluripotency” at different stages of differentiation, and are present as single cells or grouped cells. The adjacent cell interactions are evidenced by electron microscopy, which showed the formation of intercellular connections, numerous contact regions, and thin pseudopods.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)227990362211503
JournalJournal of Public Health Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 24 2023

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2023-01-27
Acknowledgements: We acknowledge Fondazione Banco di Sardegna for the financial support.


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