Nebraska Researchers Study Effects of Milk Exosomes on Human Gut Microbiome

Milk does a body good, as the saying goes, and Nebraska scientists are exploring how to make it even healthier by enhancing its infection-fighting properties. “We know that different parts of a person’s diet can have potential impacts on his/her microbiome, and this may influence susceptibility to infections with different gastrointestinal pathogens,” said Jennifer Auchtung (, PhD, one of the main investigators on a new research project led by the Nebraska Center for the Prevention of Obesity-Related Diseases (NPOD) (, in an April 22, 2020 news release from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. “One of the questions we asked was whether the molecules that are found in dairy products, especially milk, can change the microbiome and influence this susceptibility to infections.” Dr. Auchtung, Assistant Professor of Food Science and Technology, is working with lead investigator Janos Zempleni (photo), PhD, Professor of Nutrition and Health Sciences, on a four-year research project, funded by a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, to study how milk enhances or diminishes pathogenic bacteria. The new research builds on work Dr. Zempleni’s lab has been pursuing since 2013 to study how nutritional nanoparticles affect the human gut. “No matter what you do diet-wise, you’re always going to change the gut microbiome,” said Dr. Zempleni, NPOD’s Director and Willa Cather Professor of Molecular Nutrition. Through natural nanoparticles known as exosomes, milk delivers bioactive compounds to humans. Exosomes facilitate cell-to-cell communication through the transfer of regulatory “cargos” from donor to recipient cells.
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