Nutriflow delivers fat to preemies

April 28, 2014 by Patrick Kurp
Nutriflow delivers fat to preemies
Nutriflow assures the flow of all of the nutrients in mothers' milk to premature infants by flapping the bag containing the milk to keep it mixed and flowing to ensure nutrients don't attach to the bag or tube. Credit: Jeff Fitlow

(Medical Xpress)—Fat, the bane of many an adult, is precisely what babies born prematurely need to gain weight and grow strong and healthy. Some students at Rice University have invented a device to ensure preemies get enough fat, which has been a challenge.

Babies born more than five or six weeks before their due dates are unable to feed from a bottle or breast because they cannot coordinate sucking, breathing and swallowing. They must be tube-fed milk, but that too presents problems: Some 20 to 50 percent of the in mother's milk clings to the tubing and never reaches the child. Also lost are essential nutrients, including calcium, phosphorus and magnesium, that bind to the .

"Fat is essential for preemies, but it's always been a problem getting it to them," said Mika Tabata, a senior bioengineering student and a member of the design team Nutriflow at Rice. "Our task was to figure out a way to increase the amount of fat they receive, which has been difficult."

Other team members are Alexa Juarez, Denizen Kocak and Nathan Liu, also senior bioengineering students, and Jane Jarjour, a senior majoring in biochemistry and cell biology.

Tabata first encountered the problem in 2013 while serving as a summer medical and research training intern at Baylor College of Medicine. There she worked with Steven Abrams, who researches the absorption and metabolism of dietary minerals in infants and children.

The video will load shortly

"We started out just using a stir-bar to mix the fat into the milk," Liu said. "That showed a little improvement but not enough. We tried a sort of blender arrangement, but that stirred the milk too much. It was like churning butter."

Nutriflow delivers fat to preemies
Nutriflow assures the flow of all of the nutrients in mothers' milk to premature infants by flapping the bag containing the milk to keep it mixed and flowing to ensure nutrients don't attach to the bag or tube. Credit: Jeff Fitlow

The breakthrough came when the team realized breast milk had to be mixed both in the feeding bag and the tubing. They devised a motorized panel programmed to give the plastic sack holding the milk three quick flips once every three minutes, the optimal rate for mixing. After repeated fine-tunings, calibrating the pump and the hinge, the team was able to assure that 95 percent of the fat in the could reach the child.

"We couldn't believe it. After hours of hard work and going over the design, we finally hit the sweet spot," Liu said.

Explore further: Differences in pumping affect breast milk's nutritional value

Related Stories

Differences in pumping affect breast milk's nutritional value

January 23, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- While feeding breast milk to a tiny preterm baby can be a serious challenge, new Stanford research shows that it may be well worth the effort: breast milk that is produced by a combination of hand-expression ...

Breast milk and diet up to two years old: A means of preventing the risk of child obesity

April 1, 2014
Many studies have focused on the influence of breast-feeding on child health. From analysis of data from the ELANCE cohort, Marie Françoise Rolland-Cachera, former researcher at Inserm and her co-workers in the Nutritional ...

Humans can use smell to detect levels of dietary fat

January 22, 2014
New research from the Monell Center reveals humans can use the sense of smell to detect dietary fat in food. As food smell almost always is detected before taste, the findings identify one of the first sensory qualities that ...

Changing cows' diet could help tackle heart disease

April 16, 2014
Adding oilseed to a cow's diet can significantly reduce the harmful saturated fat found in its milk without compromising the white stuff's nutritional benefits, according to research by the University of Reading.

Whole milk might be a better choice for children, scientists say

July 2, 2013
Much of the recent debate over serving milk to children has concerned flavored milk: Should it be distributed in schools? Or should the only milk children receive be the unflavored, reduced-fat variety?

Recommended for you

New comparison chart sheds light on babies' tears

July 10, 2017
A chart that enables parents and clinicians to calculate if a baby is crying more than it should in the first three months of its life has been created by a Kingston University London researcher, following a study of colic ...

Blood of SIDS infants contains high levels of serotonin

July 3, 2017
Blood samples from infants who died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) had high levels of serotonin, a chemical that carries signals along and between nerves, according to a study funded in part by the National Institutes ...

Is your child's 'penicillin allergy' real?

July 3, 2017
(HealthDay)—Many children suspected of being allergic to the inexpensive, first-line antibiotic penicillin actually aren't, new research indicates.

Probiotic supplements failed to prevent babies' infections

July 3, 2017
(HealthDay)—Probiotic supplements may not protect babies from catching colds or stomach bugs in day care, a new clinical trial suggests.

Starting school young can put child wellbeing at risk

June 22, 2017
New research has shown that the youngest pupils in each school year group could be at risk of worse mental health than their older classmates.

Fidget spinners are the latest toy craze, but the medical benefits are unclear

June 21, 2017
Last week, German customs agents in Frankfurt Airport seized 35 metric tons of an imported plastic device, destroying the shipment for public safety purposes before it could infiltrate the country's marketplaces.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.