Research Interests

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The overall goal of our laboratory is to understand how autocrine/paracrine factors in the mammary gland regulate mammary gland development, as well as milk synthesis and secretion.  We utilize a combination of in vitro and in vivo models, with a variety of mammalian species (mice, cattle, humans) to understand how the mammary gland and the mother adapt to lactation.  We also utilize a combination of molecular and whole animal physiological techniques to understand mammary gland physiology.

Our laboratory is focused on mammary gland biology and lactation.  In particular our area of research is centered around how serotonin made in the mammary gland affects mammary gland development and lactation.  In particular, one major area of focus for our laboratory is how serotonin regulates the mother’s ability to regulate calcium homeostasis at the onset of lactation.  Calcium is critical to milk formation and is the most abundant mineral in milk, but is also an important mineral that governs many of the mother’s physiological processes.  We are interested in the role serotonin plays in modulating calcium between the mother and the milk during lactation.  Every mammal must mobilize a certain portion of their skeleton to maintain adequate circulating calcium levels in addition to supporting the formation of milk.  We currently have two areas of research regarding this topic.  One focuses on developing a novel method to prevent hypocalcemia in dairy cows, and the other focuses on how the use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors during pregnancy and lactation can exacerbate bone lose, resulting in decreased bone mineral density later in life. We are investigating the use of SSRIs during pregnancy and lactation on long-term maternal bone health, as well as fetal health.  Our laboratory recently received funding from NICHD to investigate the underlying molecular mechanisms regulating communication between mammary gland and bone tissue during lactation and how serotonin regulate this mechanism.

We have various other projects ongoing in our laboratory aside from those described above!  Please check out our publications link to see what we are up to!

I spent 6 months on sabbatical with Dr. Anne Eglash, a breastfeeding specialist in Madison, and some wonderful lactation consultants at AFCH NICU, and at Meriter Hospital.  So far one of the key things I’ve learned (and I’ve learned a lot), is if you are a breastfeeding mom, don’t hesitate to advocate for yourself and ask for help.  There are resources in Madison to help you if you are struggling, don’t suffer in silence!  You are doing a wonderful thing for your child and you should be able to enjoy this time with them, so please reach out for help.  The goal of my sabbatical was to obtain clinical hours so that I can take the IBCLC exam.  I’m also trying to establish a relationship with the clinicians and nurses in the area to do more research in the field of lactation and breastfeeding.  It was a once in a lifetime experience and I’m so thankful for all the people helped me obtain all my hours!  I will be taking by IBCLC exam in October and plan on becoming a certified Lactation Consultant myself.  Here are some links that you might find useful:
https://lacted.org
https://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/topics-objectives/topic/maternal-infant-and-child-health/objectives
https://www.acog.org/About-ACOG/ACOG-Departments/Breastfeeding
https://bcscw.wildapricot.org
https://lllmadison.wordpress.com
https://www.publichealthmdc.com/health-services/breastfeeding

 

We have had a couple of popular press releases related to our research, please check the links:

I was featured in Madison Magazine in July/August 2017, here is the link to the online version of the article:

http://www.channel3000.com/madison-magazine/city-life/big-idea-helping-lactating-women-through-a-discovery-in-dairy-cows/588904049

Our research was recently featured in an article in the  Endocrine News Magazine, September 2016

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http://endocrinenews.endocrine.org/the-long-and-short-of-it-the-odyssey-of-female-bone-health/

http://www.wpr.org/wisconsin-study-finds-serotonin-can-increase-calcium-cows-milk

Scientists injected cows with “happy hormones” and got healthier milk

We just press released a new paper from the Journal of Endocrinology. It's by Laura Hernandez and her team at University…

Posted by Society for Endocrinology on Friday, July 15, 2016

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/311704.php

Milk fever, and more cowbell won’t do

Milk Matters

http://www.hoards.com/blog_lactation-major-calcium-drain

Wednesday Nite at the Lab from June 8, 2016: Myself, Sam Weaver, and Steph Metzger discussed Udder Anatomy and Physiology in Nutshell!!  If you are interested the link below will take you to our lecture!

http://www.biotech.wisc.edu/webcams?lecture=20160608_1900

This video was taken where I got to answer the question: How do cows make milk? for Blue Sky Science through the UW-Morgride Institute

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If you are interested in graduate school in my program please find my contact information below, I am a member of the following graduate programs:

Animal and Dairy Sciences: http://andysci.wisc.edu

Interdisciplinary Graduate program in Nutritional Sciences (IGPNS): http://nutrisci.wisc.edu/graduate/m-s-ph-d/

Endocrinology and Reproductive Physiology (ERP): http://erp.wisc.edu

Comparative Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program (CBMS): http://www.vetmed.wisc.edu/ms-phd/

Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology Graduate Program (MCP): https://molpharm.wisc.edu

 

Contact Information:

Laura L. Hernandez, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Lactation Physiology
Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences
Affiliate Professor, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology

Animal Sciences Building
1675 Observatory Drive
Madison WI 53706
(608) 263-9867 (phone)
(608) 263-9412 (fax)
llhernandez@wisc.edu