Is orally-derived epidermal growth factor beneficial following premature birth or intestinal resection?

Endocrinol Exp. 1986 Aug;20(2-3):199-207.


Epidermal growth factor (EGF), a major growth factor in human milk, may stimulate growth and development of crucial infant tissues, particularly in conditions where the infant's growth is compromised. Here, we provide evidence of a role for EGF in two such conditions, premature birth and intestinal resection. Compared with women delivering at term, mothers of premature infants produce milk containing higher concentrations of EGF, an effect that is probably maintained throughout lactation. The increased EGF in milk could not be accounted for by a decrease in the volume of milk production or by events surrounding birth, but may instead represent a maternal compensatory mechanism to accelerate growth in pre-term infants. A role for EGF in stimulating adaptive intestinal regrowth following gut resection was identified using weanling rats. Following removal of 50% of the small intestine of weanling rats, inclusion of EGF (20 micrograms/100 g per day) in the diet (S-26 infant formula) significantly accelerated intestinal growth, as determined by wet weight, protein and sucrase activity per unit length. These studies support the concept that administration of EGF could prove beneficial to infants in which crucial, EGF-responsive tissues are poorly developed, e.g. following premature birth or intestinal resection.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Epidermal Growth Factor / pharmacology
  • Epidermal Growth Factor / physiology*
  • Female
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Intestines / growth & development
  • Intestines / surgery
  • Lactation
  • Milk, Human / metabolism*
  • Pregnancy
  • Rats
  • Time Factors


  • Epidermal Growth Factor