Full cream: The power of milk on infant development

Our upcoming guest is Jillien Zukaitis, a first year PhD student in Nutrition, College of Health. Her lab, fondly referred to as the ‘Milk Lab’, studies at all things milk. With a clinical background as a dietitian, Jillien now couples her practical experience with translatable research.

Partnering with OHSU, Jillien assesses the composition, nutritional value, and potential health benefits of human milk on the development of preterm infants in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). This involves analyzing various proteins and peptides in the different types of milk fed to these infants and seeing how they are digested to isolate their roles in infant health and development. One way she does this is by isolating milk peptides from infant stomach and intestine and testing these on macrophage cells, examining the immune function of some of the peptides identified. By assessing the processing methods, milk types, and milk contents, she aims to discern what milk is best to feed infants. She plans to compare these results against other sources of nutrition such as infant formula in the future.

One innovative element of her research is through use of an in-vitro “digestion machine” known as SHIME (The Simulator of the Human Intestinal Microbial Ecosystem), which essentially mimics the entire digestive process from start to finish, allowing valuable insights at each stage involved. This revolutionary machine is one of the few in the USA and is right here at OSU!

To learn more about her research, passion to improve the lives of infants, and the unorthodox pathway that led her to pursuing her PhD, tune in to our prerecorded conversation on KBVR 88.7 FM this Sunday, May 12. You can listen to the episode anywhere you listen to your podcasts, including on KBVRSpotifyApple, or anywhere else!

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