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Unravelling the dynamic interactome of human milk vitamins

Serge Rezzi, Swiss Vitamin Institute
19 March 2021

Nutritional patterns, the quantitative profile of nutrients and micronutrients that are actually consumed every day, play instrumental roles on the metabolic health trajectory from the first period of life to old age. Nutrients (carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, water) and micronutrients (vitamins, minerals and trace elements) interact at multiple levels of the biological organization from organs to cellular organelles orchestrating a complex network of biochemical processes and physiological functions. The term vitamin suggests the vital nature of micronutrient molecules belonging to this family. Classified according to their solubility, either in lipids (liposoluble), or water (hydrosoluble), vitamins exert a myriad of functions such as the control of many enzymatic reactions via their cofactor roles, the regulation of nutrient absorption and of metabolic homeostasis, the modulation of gene expression, growth and development or the protection against molecular damages caused by oxidative stress. Vitamins are essential nutrients to humans, and several other species, due to either the absence of biosynthetic capabilities or the presence of some but at a limited rate that doesn’t satisfy their metabolic requirements by the body. This is the reason why vitamins need to be absorbed from the diet to enable all the metabolic processes they are implicated in to be normally conducted. Vitamin intakes are thus crucial at every stage of life including in infancy. 

Human milk has received the benefits of millions of years evolutionary pressure to make it the ultimate nutritional matrix for the survival and development of newly born human babies. Its composition is highly complex and evolves as a function of multiple factors such as time from birth and dietary habits of the mother. While there is some knowledge available on breast milk vitamin content, the data remain surprisingly scarce and when considering the technical difficulties to quantitatively extract and analyse vitamin profiles. 

The NUTRISHIELD project offers a unique opportunity to collect reliable data on vitamin content of breast milk and its evolutive profile over time in well characterized mother-baby pairs. State of the art analytical techniques coupled with expert vitamin extraction and sample preparation will provide reliable datasets that will be integrated with baby’s growth. Another unique research opportunity lies in the unprecedented chance to integrate high quality quantitative datasets on human milk vitamin and fecal microbiome and metabolic profiles to raise new scientific hypothesis on possible dietary micronutrient modulation of the gut functional ecology in the human new-born. 



NUTRISHIELD aims at creating a personalised platform for the young. The platform will consist of novel methods & techniques, which analyse a wide range of biomarkers related to nutrition and health disorders.