Heparin-binding EGF-like growth factor is present in human amniotic fluid and breast milk

M. P. Michalsky, M. Lara-Marquez, L. Chun, G. E. Besner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Background/Purpose: Heparin-binding EGF-like growth factor (HB-EGF) is a member of the epidermal growth factor (EGF) family that has been implicated in the healing of various organ injuries. Endogenous HB-EGF production is upregulated in response to injury to the kidney, liver, brain, skin, and intestine. Exogenous administration of HB-EGF protects against intestinal epithelial cell apoptosis and necrosis and intestinal ischemia/reperfusion (I/R) injury. This study examines the presence of endogenous HB-EGF in human amniotic fluid and breast milk, fluids that are in intimate contact with the developing and neonatal gastrointestinal tract. Methods: Breast milk samples were collected from lactating women and amniotic fluid was gathered from full-term uteri (cesarian sections) or preterm uteri (amniocentesis). Crude and partially purified breast milk and amniotic fluid samples were analyzed for HB-EGF levels using an HB-EGF-specific enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Results:Analysis results showed detectable HB-EGF levels in human amniotic fluid and breast milk, ranging from 0.2 to 230 pg/mL. Breast milk and amniotic fluid subjected to heparin affinity or HB-EGF-affinity column chromatography showed bioactivity eluting at positions consistent with those known for native HB-EGF. Conclusions: This study represents the first report of detectable HB-EGF in human amniotic fluid and breast milk. The presence of HB-EGF in these fluids may serve a role in the development of the gastrointestinal tract in utero, and in protection against gut mucosal injury after birth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-6
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of pediatric surgery
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Amniotic fluid
  • Breast milk
  • Heparin-binding epidermal growth factor
  • Inflammation
  • Intestine
  • Necrotizing enterocolitis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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