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overview

It is widely recognized that breastfeeding improves child development and the long-term health of the mother. Less is known about the hormonal mechanisms that work to ensure successful milk production. We aim to further understand these molecular mechanisms in order to produce better and more evidence-based support for breastfeeding mothers.

The Oxford Centre for the Endocrinology of Human Lactation (OCEHL), is based at the Women’s Centre, John Radcliffe Hospital and is led by Dr Fadil Hannan (Centre Director).  OCEHL is funded by the Family Larsson Rosenquist Foundation and was established in 2019. OCEHL’s research focuses on the molecular endocrinology of lactation (the hormonal mechanisms or chemicals that control and regulate cells and organs in the production of breastmilk).

Lactation and breastfeeding

Meet our Team

Research studies

1) Endocrinology of the lactation cycle. 

This project will:

  • establish reference standards for the major lactation hormones so that we can understand what the hormone levels are in healthy, low risk mothers at each stage of pregnancy and breastfeeding;
  • investigate how major diseases that affect breastfeeding, such as obesity, diabetes, depression or malnutrition, can influence the levels of lactation hormones;
  • determine whether some mothers with low milk production have an underlying lactation hormone disorder.



Image: Overview of the hormones influencing the different phases of the lactation cycle.

Lactation cycle

2. Molecular cross-talk between tissues involved in lactation.

This project will investigate the signalling and crosstalk mechanisms, which operate between tissues such as the pituitary, breast and bone, to facilitate successful lactation.

Image: Overview of molecular cross-talk between tissues involved in lactation.

Molecular cross-talk between tissues involved in lactation


The lactating mammary gland secretes parathyroid hormone-related peptide (PTHrP), which mobilizes Ca2+ from bone for milk production. PTHrP secretion is regulated by the cell-surface Ca2+-sensing receptor (CaSR). 

From: Hannan et al., Nature Reviews Endocrinology. 15: 33-51 (2019).

 

3. Endocrine communication between mother and child during lactation.

This study will characterize the hormones present in human milk by means of establishing a milk bank which would rely on the generous donation of mothers, for this ground-breaking and necessary research.

Image: Milk mediated maternal-child endocrine communication.

Milk

4. Lactation-related health outcomes in the mother and child.

In this project we will set up mother-child cohorts to assess the hormonal changes during lactation, which might influence child growth and development, and also contribute to maternal diseases such as diabetes and cancer.

Image: Potential hormonal influences on lactation-related health outcomes.

Hormones

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Related research themes