Milk osteopontin for gut, immunity and brain development in preterm pigs

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Deficient levels of milk osteopontin (OPN) in infant formula may partly account for developmental differences between infants fed formula or maternal milk. We hypothesized that a milk diet supplemented with bovine milk OPN improves gut, immunity and brain development and tested this in a preterm pig model. Preterm pigs delivered by cesarean section (90% gestation) were fed raw bovine milk (CON, n = 19) or the same diet supplemented with a physiologically relevant dose of OPN (46 mg/(kg·d), n = 16). Endpoints related to clinical outcomes, systemic immunity and neurocognitive development were assessed during the study and gut tissues were collected at Day 19. Growth pattern, early motor development and most systemic immune parameters were similar between OPN and CON pigs. The OPN pigs had higher villus-to-crypt ratios than CON pigs and higher monocyte and lymphocyte counts on Day 8. Gut digestive and absorptive functions and cognitive performance (T-maze test) were similar between OPN and CON pigs. In conclusion, dietary supplementation with OPN above basal bovine milk levels induced minor improvements in gut structure and systemic immunity without any effects on cognitive performance. The minimal levels of OPN in infant formula to secure optimal adaptation in the immediate neonatal period remain to be determined.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2675
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was funded by Arla Foods Ingredients, Denmark.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

    Research areas

  • Bioactive milk protein, Brain development, Cognition, Intestinal health, Osteopontin, Preterm neonates, Systemic immunity

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