Human milk growth factors and their role in nec prevention: A narrative review

Daniel J. York, Anne L. Smazal, Daniel T. Robinson, Isabelle G. De Plaen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Growing evidence demonstrates human milk’s protective effect against necrotizing enter-ocolitis (NEC). Human milk derives these properties from biologically active compounds that influence intestinal growth, barrier function, microvascular development, and immunological matu-ration. Among these protective compounds are growth factors that are secreted into milk with rel-atively high concentrations during the early postnatal period, when newborns are most susceptible to NEC. This paper reviews the current knowledge on human milk growth factors and their mechanisms of action relevant to NEC prevention. It will also discuss the stability of these growth factors with human milk pasteurization and their potential for use as supplements to infant formulas with the goal of preventing NEC.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number3751
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2021


  • Epidermal Growth Factor (EGF)
  • Erythropoetin (EPO)
  • Granulocyte Colony Stimulating Factor (G-CSF)
  • Growth factors
  • Heparin-Binding EGF-like Growth Factor (HB-EGF)
  • Holder pasteurization
  • Human milk
  • Insulin-like Growth Factor 1 (IGF-1) Insulin-like Growth Factor 2 (IGF-2)
  • Necrotizing enterocolitis
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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