Issue 30

New insights into the role of OPN

International researchers discussed the latest findings at this year’s osteopontin conference

More than 80 researchers from all over the world met to share and discuss the latest findings on osteopontin (OPN) at a dedicated six-day conference in Colorado, USA. Currently the sole manufacturer of a commercial OPN product, Arla Foods Ingredients was one of the main sponsors of the event, organised by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. 

High concentration in human milk
The conference included a presentation by a research team from Aarhus University which, supported by Arla Foods Ingredients, has revealed a high concentration of OPN in human breast milk compared to cow’s milk and standard infant formulas.

First line of defence
The team also presented data recently published in the Journal of Immunological Research. This shows that milk OPN functions as a so-called opsonin – meaning that it can bind to bacteria and, in this way, mark them for removal by immune system cells. It is thought that OPN could be a factor in the interaction with the neonate innate immune system in the first line of defence against bacteria.

Early involvement
Arla Foods Ingredients was involved in the original collaborative research project at Aarhus University that first isolated and characterised OPN from cow’s milk. Today, the company continues to collaborate with several research groups to elucidate the role of OPN in milk.

The osteopontin conference was the fifth of its kind organised by American scientific organisations since the mid-nineties, when the key role of OPN in many biological systems and processes was recognised. Conference sessions covered, for example, innate and adaptive immunity, biomineralisation, intercellular signalling, stress response, musculoskeletal biology and receptor interactions. Arla Foods Ingredients has sponsored the last three OPN conferences.