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Lactoferrin's Cell Regenerative Effects

Lactoferrin, known for its immune-boosting properties, also aids regenerative processes such as bone growth, wound healing, and healthy DNA.

Scientifically reviewed by: Dr. Gary Gonzalez, MD, in April 2023. Written by: Gregory E. Bigford, PhD, MSBA.

Lactoferrin is a multi-functional protein known for its ability to support immunity.

Research in preclinical1-5 and clinical settings6,7 reveals how lactoferrin helps prevent growth of microbes, including bacteria and viruses, in healthy cells.

A recent clinical trial in Japan found that this protein has properties that can help mitigate infectious diseases including summer colds.8

Emerging preclinical data suggest that lactoferrin can also help promote cellular regeneration.3 In other words, it has potential to help the body heal and repair itself.

What is Lactoferrin?

Lactoferrin is a protein primarily found in milk, tears, nasal fluids, saliva, and secretions from gastro-intestinal, and reproductive tissues.1,9

It is also found in blood plasma,9 immune cells such as neutrophils,10 and macrophages.1 It helps facilitate immune responses against pathogens such as bacteria, parasites, fungi, and viruses.1

Lactoferrin Against Viral Illnesses

Lactoferrin is present in our body and is a factor in the body’s defense against infections.

It strengthens the immune system by blocking the direct viral invasion of cells.11

One unusual feature of lactoferrin is the diversity of viruses it can shield against. It possesses robust antiviral activity against viruses that cause the common cold and flu, gastroenteritis, hepatitis B and C, herpes simplex, Epstein-Barr virus, and more.4,11

Lactoferrin also has indirect antiviral effects. It helps the body fight against a virus by activating immune defenses. It boosts the activity and number of natural killer cells.1,12,13 Viruses replicate inside cells. Natural killer cells can recognize abnormal cells, including those infected by viruses, and destroy them. This can help prevent the spread of a virus in the body.

Lactoferrin also stimulates the production of other antiviral compounds, including the signaling proteins known as interferons.2,8,11

Lactoferrin may also help block the ability of viruses to reproduce even if they’re already inside cells.11 This helps limit the spread of the virus, potentially reducing the severity of the resulting illness.

While some lactoferrin is produced in the body, oral intake can boost its levels.

In more recent years, scientists have conducted research into its potential ability to help the body repair damaged tissues and cells.

Regenerative Properties

Inflammation and oxidative stress can severely harm cells, leading to deterioration of body systems and chronic disease.

Preclinical studies have shown lactoferrin’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties help protect against that damage.14 It works by stimulating anti-inflammatory molecules,2,13 inhibiting pro-inflammatory molecules,2,15,16 and scavenging free radicals 14,17-19 to reduce oxidative stress.20-23

Lactoferrin also has direct properties of regeneration and repair. It can:

  • Bind and interact with DNA to protect genetic material against damage,14
  • Promote healthy cell division,24 and
  • Spur differentiation of stem cells (when stem cells mature and develop into specialized cell types).25,26

Together, these actions may help the body repair itself and even reverse some of the damage that comes with aging.

Bone Benefits

Much of the research on lactoferrin’s regenerative qualities has focused on bone health.

Studies have found that lactoferrin can promote proliferation of bone-forming cells known as osteoblasts and the differentiation of stem cells into bone cells.3,27 Preclinical studies have shown it can also activate bone-building signals that normally halt with age.28-30

This could be important for people with osteoporosis, in which bones become brittle and prone to fractures.31 Osteoporosis is alarmingly common, affecting 30% of women aged 50 or older, 77% of women over 80, 16% of men 50 or older, and 46% of men over 80.32

In a randomized placebo-controlled human trial, women aged 45 to 60 years, who were at high risk for osteoporosis, were given 125 mg per day of lactoferrin (enriched with an enzyme from milk called ribo-nuclease) for 180 days. In those who received the lactoferrin, there was a significant reduction in bone resorption and an increase in bone formation.33

One of the side effects of bisphosphonates (drugs to prevent bone loss) is osteonecrosis (in which bone dies due to low blood flow).

In a study of people with bisphosphonate-induced osteonecrosis, a lactoferrin-saturated dressing was applied directly to wounds after surgical removal of dead bone. Bone healing and wound closure were complete in just one to two weeks, compared with two to three months under usual treatment.34

Other studies have shown that lactoferrin inhibits the process of bone breakdown.3,35 Lactoferrin may also be able to offset bone degeneration and promote regenerative processes, preserving bone mass and improving bone architecture.36

Another human study shows lactoferrin supplementation to be beneficial in people with periodontal disease 37

What you need to know

The Regenerative Power of Lactoferrin

  • Lactoferrin is a milk protein often consumed as a dietary supplement to support immune health.
  • Research shows that lactoferrin is active against a wide assortment of pathogens.
  • It works by helping to block viral invasion of cells and by amplifying the immune system’s power to eliminate viral infection from the body.
  • Early research has shown that lactoferrin can promote cellular and tissue regeneration and repair, processes that help the body reverse damage.
  • Preclinical research shows that lactoferrin has anti-cancer effects.
  • Research suggests that lactoferrin may spur the formation of new blood vessels, helping restore blood flow to damaged tissue.

Repairing Cartilage and Tendons

Like bone, cartilage tends to wear down with age, leading to pain and stiffness at the joints. Osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis,38 and disc degenerative disease both involve the progressive deterioration and degradation of vertebral discs and cartilage.39

A lactoferrin-derived peptide has shown promise in addressing these degenerative processes. In preclinical studies, it was found to inhibit inflammatory mediators and break down processes in joint cartilage40-42 and discs.42,43

Tendons are fibrous tissues that attach muscle to bone. In an animal model, a lactoferrin-derived peptide was effective in enhancing tendon repair after injuries that result in loss of functional mobility.44

A human trial in patients undergoing tendon repair surgery found that injection of the same peptide into the surgical site led to a significant improvement in function and mobility.45

Wound Healing

Lactoferrin has also shown great potential as a wound-healing agent.

In a clinical trial in diabetic patients, a population prone to chronic skin ulcers, application of a gel that incorporated a synthetic form of lactoferrin resulted in reduced neuropathic ulcer size.46

In cell and animal models of burn wounds, a plant-derived lactoferrin that is identical to human lactoferrin stimulated skin cell function and wound healing.47

In preclinical studies, direct application of lactoferrin also accelerates the wound-healing process in the cornea of the eye, 48,49 and the mucous lining of airways.50

Emerging Applications

A review published in 2021 noted lactoferrin’s ability to modulate growth, proliferation, and differentiation of stem cells into osteoblasts.

The review also indicated the potential of lactoferrin in supporting angiogenesis (formation of new blood vessels).3 Blood vessel development is a vital step in regenerative medicine as it enables the restoration of blood flow to damaged tissues.51

"Talactoferrin" is a recombinant protein, a synthetic drug form of human lactoferrin. Preclinical studies of skin wounds show that talactoferrin can increase the healing rate and decrease the healing time of the wound.52

Lactoferrin has also shown anti-cancer effects, contributing to cell-cycle arrest and cell death in cancerous cells.53,54 In an animal study, lactoferrin in conjunction with other factors substantially suppressed prostate tumor growth in mice.55

More clinical research remains to be done, but lactoferrin holds great promise in helping the body repair itself and in promoting overall health.

Potential Benefits of Lactoferrin

  • In cartilage models, a lactoferrin-derived peptide helped preserve tissue and suppress inflammation.40,41,56
  • A synthetic peptide derived from lactoferrin, injected into the surgical site in human tendon repair surgery, resulted in improved sensory and mobility recovery.45
  • In a rodent, as well as a bone cell model, it promoted healthy bone metabolism and structure.29,57
  • The same lactoferrin-derived peptide promoted preservation of intervertebral disc cells.43
  • In a clinical trial, a topically applied gel made with a synthetic lactoferrin drug promoted significantly greater healing of diabetic neuropathic ulcers.46
  • In laboratory and animal models, direct application of lactoferrin aided in healing the corneal tissue that forms the surface of the eye.48,49
  • In a preclinical study, a plant-derived lactoferrin that is identical to human lactoferrin stimulated skin cell function and wound healing.47
  • Evidence from preclinical studies indicates it may possess various anti-cancer effects.1,12,54

Supplementing with Lactoferrin

Lactoferrin has a wide range of benefits. A typical dose of lactoferrin is 300 mg once or twice daily.

Taken orally, lactoferrin is readily absorbed and can play an important role in bolstering defenses against viral illnesses.


Many people consume lactoferrin for immune support. A significant amount of preclinical research has shown that various forms of this protein, or its derivatives, may also aid the body’s regenerative processes, helping to repair damage to bone, cartilage, and tendons, speed the healing of wounds, and more.

These and other effects hold great promise for our approach to osteoporosis, arthritis, and other degenerative disorders.

If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension Wellness Specialist at 1-866-864-3027.


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