IGEM Grant Funds Project to Help Nursing Mothers Navigate Food Intolerances
June 04, 2020
MOSCOW, Idaho — June 3, 2020 — A Meridian scientist and entrepreneur will work with University of Idaho researchers to perfect a simple home test to help breastfeeding mothers avoid allergic reactions by their infants.
Trillitye Paullin, a molecular biologist, is developing a simple test for nursing mothers to detect whether their breast milk carries allergens that threaten their infants’ health. Idaho Department of Commerce officials announced Wednesday her project will receive $212,000 to validate it for market use through the Idaho Global Entrepreneurial Mission (IGEM) program.
She will work with U of I nutrition researcher and human milk expert Shelley McGuire and her husband and colleague Mark McGuire, who is also a U of I lactation expert. They will oversee independent testing of Paullin’s method. Shelley McGuire is director of the Margaret Ritchie School of Family and Consumer Sciences and Mark McGuire is director of the Idaho Agricultural Experiment Station.
A U.S. Army veteran, Paullin served in Iraq, then earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and biology at Minot State University in North Dakota. She later earned a doctorate in cellular and molecular biology from the University of South Florida.
A mother of two young daughters, Paullin encountered trouble while breastfeeding each of them. Both developed severe allergic reactions, which forced her to switch to an allergen-free diet.
Her doctor was unable to determine what allergen caused her daughters’ distress, so Paullin eliminated the eight most common allergy-causing foods from her diet.
Paullin now leads the Boise Darigold cooperative’s Quality Department. That role and her research experience in protein analysis for cancer therapeutics led her to develop test strips women could use to test their milk for common allergens. She hopes to market the first product of its kind, which will identify the presence of dairy allergens, after the IGEM project.
Her goal is to help mothers determine what is eliciting a response in their babies and give them more dietary freedom while continuing to breastfeed.
“For example, Mom could enjoy her favorite food, like ice cream, during date night and then use a test strip to determine if the allergen entered her milk and for how long,” Paullin said.
She sought out the McGuires because of their expertise in studying human milk and for the credibility of researchers at U.S. land-grant universities.
Her test would not require FDA approval to market, but Paullin wanted to work with U of I to add additional scientific credibility to her claims.
“Third-party validation is an important piece of our market strategy,” she said.
The first study will focus on cow’s milk protein and soy testing, an important step because these products can supply breastfeeding mothers with high-quality nutrition, she said.
Later, products may allow mothers to test for other common infant food intolerances such as wheat, egg, fish, or nuts.
Science Writer, U of I College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
About the University of Idaho
The University of Idaho, home of the Vandals, is Idaho’s land-grant, national research university. From its residential campus in Moscow, U of I serves the state of Idaho through educational centers in Boise, Coeur d’Alene and Idaho Falls, nine research and Extension centers, plus Extension offices in 42 counties. Home to nearly 11,000 students statewide, U of I is a leader in student-centered learning and excels at interdisciplinary research, service to businesses and communities, and in advancing diversity, citizenship and global outreach. U of I competes in the Big Sky and Western Athletic conferences. Learn more at uidaho.edu