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The metabolomic characterization of changes in human milk metabolites under different storage temperature and time

Lui, J.K., Rawlinson, C., Maker, G.L.ORCID: 0000-0003-1666-9377, Trengove, N.J., Trengove, R.D. and Hartmann, P.E. (2011) The metabolomic characterization of changes in human milk metabolites under different storage temperature and time. In: Seventh International Conference of the Metabolomics Society, 27 - 30 June, Cairns, Qld, Australia.


The metabolomic profile of human milk is not well characterized compared with other biological fluids like blood, saliva or urine. To date there is no extensive study to determine the ―normal range‖ of the metabolite profile for human milk. In situations where infants are unable to breastfeed, expressed breastmilk is the recommended alternative. This is of significant importance for pre-term infants where breastmilk has been shown to increase their survival rate. Thus, optimal storage time and temperature are required to maintain the nutritional and functional benefits of expressed milk, while preventing the growth of pathogenic bacteria and break down of essential metabolites.

Through gas chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry (GC -MS), our study aims to unravel the ―normal range of the metabolomic profile for human milk. To test the suitability of GC-MS for this study, a pilot study was undertaken to determine the milk metabolite profile under different storage temperatures over a 24-hour period. Milk expressed from 5 individual mothers, between 3 to 7 months post-partum was collected, aliquoted, then stored immediately either at room temperature, 4°C, -20°C and -80°C before processing for GC-MS analysis. Initial results shows metabolite levels were found to vary over time at higher in contrast to lower temperature stored milk samples. This variation over time could be either positive or negative depending on the metabolite.

Variation in the metabolomic profile of the milk when stored at room temperature suggests metabolic modification of the metabolomic profile of the milk occurred presumably due of the cytosolic enzymes escaping into milk during the secretory process. This pilot study shows that milk needs to be stored at -20°C to retain its metabolomic profile.

Item Type: Conference Item
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Separation Science and Metabolomics Laboratory
School of Pharmacy
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