Breakey AA, Hinde K, Valeggia CR, Sinofsky A, Ellison PT. Illness in breastfeeding infants relates to concentration of lactoferrin and secretory Immunoglobulin A in mother's milk. Evolution, Medicine, & Public Health [Internet]. 2015;2015 (1) :21-31. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Background and objectives: This study aims to better understand the relationship between immune compounds in human milk and infant health. We hypothesized that the concentration of immune compounds in milk would relate to infant illness symptoms according to two possible theoretical paradigms. In the “protective” paradigm, high concentrations of immune compounds prevent infant illness. The converse, the “responsive” framework, posits that concentrations of immune compounds are elevated in response to infection.

Methodology: Milk samples (n=110) and illness data were collected among the Toba of Argentina from 30 mother-infant dyads. Samples were assayed for two immune proteins, lactoferrin and secretory immunoglobulin A (sIgA). Generalized estimating equations were used to assess the relationship between immune composition of milk and symptoms of illness in infants.

Results: Lactoferrin was positively associated with symptoms of illness in infants (odds ratios >1), both in the month preceding the sample collection and the subsequent month. sIgA was negatively associated with symptoms (odds ratios <1) in the preceding and subsequent months, an association which was particularly strong for gastrointestinal symptoms.

Conclusions and implications: The two compounds investigated in our study had opposite relationships with symptoms of illness; the positive relationship between lactoferrin and illness lends support to our “responsive” paradigm, and the negative relationship between sIgA and symptoms of illness was consistent with our “protective” framework. That elevated lactoferrin is restricted to periods of illness suggests that there may be a cost to mother or infant associated with persistently elevated lactoferrin that is not incurred with elevated sIgA.

Rudzik AE, Breakey A, Bribiescas RG. Oxytocin and Epstein-Barr virus: Stress biomarkers in the postpartum period among first-time mothers from Sao Paulo, Brazil. Am J Hum Biol [Internet]. 2014;26 :43-50. Publisher's VersionAbstract

OBJECTIVES: The purpose of the study was to examine the relationship between self-reported stress levels among new mothers in Sao Paulo, Brazil and two biomarkers of stressful experience, oxytocin (OT) and Epstein-Barr Virus antibody level (EBV-ab), with planned pregnancy hypothesized as a moderator of biological response to stressful conditions. METHODS: Sixty-three first-time mothers between the ages of 15 and 45 were recruited from neighborhoods in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Quantitative and qualitative data were collected longitudinally, bi-weekly between two and 12 weeks postpartum. OT level was assessed from breast milk samples and EBV-ab from blood spot samples. An Interpersonal Satisfaction scale was developed, validated, and administered, along with the Cohen perceived stress scale (PSS). RESULTS: In-depth interview data revealed unplanned pregnancy to be a significant stressor in the lives of first-time mothers. In linear regression, OT level was negatively associated with interpersonal satisfaction score (P = 0.022) and positively associated with PSS score (P = 0.007). When splitting the sample by planned status of the pregnancy, women with an unplanned pregnancy showed a strengthened positive association between OT level and PSS (P = 0.001; Adj R(2) = 0.44) and negative association with interpersonal satisfaction (P = 0.017; Adj R(2) = 0.15), while no associations existed for women with a planned pregnancy. EBV-ab level was not correlated or associated with stress/satisfaction measures. CONCLUSION: OT is an effective biomarker in the measurement of stress in the body, and additionally reflects differential experiences with difficult interpersonal circumstances, such as unplanned pregnancy. By contrast, EBV-ab failed to reflect differences in self-reported stress levels between mothers.

Ellison PT, Reiches MW, Shattuck-Faegre H, Breakey A, Konecna M, Urlacher S, Wobber V. Puberty as a life history transition. Ann Hum Biol [Internet]. 2012;39 :352-60. Publisher's VersionAbstract

BACKGROUND: James Tanner's landmark publication, Growth at Adolescence, was not only the first and most comprehensive treatise on the subject of human pubertal development of its time, its core insights have held up remarkably well over time. REVIEW: This review connects Tanner's contributions to contemporary understanding of puberty as a process fundamentally driven by neuroendocrine maturation. It introduces the concepts of the 'hour-glass of puberty' and 'somatic strategy' as heuristic constructs. The 'hour-glass of puberty' describes the converging pathways of information flow influencing the timing of the neuroendocrine events of puberty and its ramifying consequences throughout the body. Somatic strategy refers to the pattern of sex-specific, adult body morphology that develops at puberty as the individual undergoes a life history transition from juvenile to adult.

Anestis SF, Breakey AA, Beuerlein MM, Bribiescas RG. Specific gravity as an alternative to creatinine for estimating urine concentration in captive and wild chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) Samples. Am J Primatol [Internet]. 2009;71 :130-5. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The measurement of hormones in urine has become a widely used technique in primatology. Because urine concentration varies according to fluid intake, concentration must be measured in each sample collected, and hormone values are always expressed per unit of concentration. Traditionally, creatinine has been used as a concentration index, but some studies in humans have shown that creatinine varies among populations and even within and between individuals within a population, and that it begins to degrade after just one freeze-thaw cycle. In addition, creatinine measurement is relatively time-consuming and expensive and creates hazardous waste. In this study, we tested the hypothesis that specific gravity, or the ratio of the density of a sample to that of water, is highly correlated with creatinine measurement in urine samples collected from captive chimpanzees at the New Iberia Research Center in Louisiana and wild chimpanzees at the Ngogo study site in the Kibale National Park, Uganda. We found that specific gravity and creatinine were highly correlated in both captive (N=124) and wild (N=13) chimpanzee samples, and that specific gravity measurement was robust to actual and simulated transport conditions and repeated freeze-thaw cycles. We recommend that researchers consider specific gravity measurement as a preferable alternative to creatinine measurement in their studies of primate endocrinology.