Authorities Race To Regulate Booming Breast Milk Industry

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — It could trade for 400 times more than the price of crude oil and 2,000 times more than iron ore. If sold off the shelf, it could cost more than 150 times the price of a gallon of cow’s milk and 15 times more than coffee.

Going for as much as $4 per ounce, breast milk is a hot commodity that is emerging as a surprisingly cutthroat industry, one that states are seeking to regulate amid a battle for control between nonprofit and for-profit banks that supply hospital neonatal units.

The debate among the for-profit and nonprofit organizations can be sharp-elbowed. It centers on whose processes result in the safest milk for premature babies in neonatal intensive care units, which need the milk if a mother has difficulty producing enough or the child has trouble latching. Each side claims the moral high ground, with nonprofits generally saying milk distribution should be altruistic and for-profit companies arguing mothers deserve to be compensated.

In the United States, there are two for-profit companies and soon to be three, and one nonprofit that oversees 15 milk banks in the U.S. in addition to three in Canada. Ten nonprofit banks are in development. Against this backdrop, lawmakers in New Jersey and Michigan are considering legislation to license banks, while legislators in California, Maryland, New York and Texas already have regulations.

Mothers have long had far from a monolithic view on the question of milk banking, but what’s changing is the availability of more options as the industry matures. For some, the work involved in cleaning bottle parts and in pumping and storing their milk warrants being paid. Others view donating their milk, considered superior to formula in nutrition and immunity-building qualities, as a charitable service.

“You just never know who it’s —> Read More

Brain Scan Reveals Old World Monkey’s Surprisingly Complex Brain

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The brain scan of a fossilized monkey skull has given evolutionary anthropologists new clues into the branching of humanity’s ancient origins and is rewriting the current understanding of primate brain development. A team from Duke University scanned this ancient monkey fossil, first discovered in Kenya in 1997, and has revealed that its tiny brain was wrinkled and well defined, containing aspects that are actually more complex than its modern descendants.

The ancient monkey, famously known as Victoriapithecus, is from the Old World primate family- an evolutionary branch that contains animals such as macaques and baboons. This specimen is believed to be 15 million years old and was first discovered in Kenya’s Lake Victoria.

The team at Duke University, lead by Lauren Gonzales, used Micro-CT scans of the skull to show the brain’s size in relation to the body. Researchers calculated the brain volume to be 36 cubic centimeters, which is less than half the brain size of modern monkeys.

Despite the small cerebral size, the brain of Victoriapithecus was shockingly complex. Alongside the numerous wrinkles and folds, the team’s CT scans revealed that the brain’s olfactory bulb — the area of the brain that analyzes smell — was three times larger than expected.

“It probably had a better sense of smell than many monkeys and apes living today,” Lauren Gonzales stated in Nature. “In living higher primates you find the opposite: the brain is very big, and the olfactory bulb is very small, presumably because as their vision got better their sense of smell got worse.”

The large olfactory bulb leads researchers to believe that Victoriapithecus could have retained both capabilities.

This discovery has provided new clues to early primate development and cognitive function, with a new examination on the emergence —> Read More

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