Foteini Kakulas

Dr, PhD W.Aust.

  • The University of Western Australia (M570), 35 Stirling Highway,

    6009 Perth


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Personal profile


Dr Foteini Kakulas (formerly Hassiotou) graduated from the Aristotle University of Greece in 2005 with a B.Sc. in Biology and First Class Honours in Microbiology. She then migrated to Australia and started a PhD in 2006 in Plant Physiology at The University of Western Australia (UWA), which she completed in 2009. Shortly after, she joined the Hartmann Human Lactation Research Group of UWA, commencing a second PhD on breastfeeding physiology, the cellular composition of breastmilk, and breast cancer. Her second PhD included ground-breaking reports, such as the discovery of pluripotent stem cells in breastmilk, and the development of tools to assess the health status of the lactating breast. She also conducted novel research in molecular determinants of cancer. Dr Kakulas then formed and directed the Cell Biology Team of the UWA Hartmann group, conducting research that concentrated on the maternal cells present in breastmilk and their involvement in health and disease. She also directed a team of researchers concentrating on understanding the causes of cancer and developing novel non-invasive therapies for this disease. She is the recipient of the 2014 Ehrlich-Koldovsky Award (International Society for Research in Human Milk and Lactation), which recognised her human and animal studies on the pluripotent properties of breastmilk stem cells and their transfer and fate in the breastfed offspring. Dr Kakulas is an Editorial Board Member for Scientific Reports, Nature.

Roles and responsibilities

Dr Kakulas has supervised Honours, Masters and PhD students on projects that address her key research areas. Dr Kakulas' expertise spans the following fields:
Stem Cell and Cancer Biology
Human Lactation
Human Nutrition
Plant Physiology and Photosynthesis

Funding overview

Kakulas F (2015-2016). Illuminating the Life-Giving Properties of Human Milk: From Milk Diagnostics to Milk Therapeutics. Unrestricted research grant by Medela AG (Switzerland)
Jackson M, Hassiotou F, Nowak A (2014). Expression and significance of embryonic stem cell associated genes in glioblastoma and gliosarcoma. WA Department of Health, Australian Government
Hassiotou F (2014). New horizons for regenerative medicine using breastmilk stem cells. American Association of Anatomists
Equipment Grant RA/1/466/183. National Health and Medical Research Council, Australia
Hassiotou F (2014-2015). Illuminating the Life-Giving Properties of Human Milk. Unrestricted research grant by Medela AG (Switzerland)
Hassiotou F (2012-2013). Physiology of Human Lactation. Unrestricted research grant by Medela AG (Switzerland)
Hassiotou F (2011). Examination of the properties and function of pluripotent stem cells from breastmilk. GRST Grant (University of Western Australia)
Hassiotou F (2010-2013). Women and Infants Research Foundation Scholarship
Hassiotou F (2010-2013). Medela AG Scholarship
Hassiotou F (2009). Robertson Fellowship
Hassiotou F (2007). ARC-NZ Research Network for Vegetation Function Research Grant
Hassiotou F (2006-2009). Australian Postgraduate Award

Previous positions

Editorial Review Board, Journal of Human Lactation

Teaching overview

Supervisor to Honours, Masters and PhD students


Pluripotency genes and associated pathways controlling self-renewal and differentiation in normal stem cells and in cancer stem cells.
The properties of breastmilk stem cells and microRNAs, and their function in the development of the breastfed infant.
The potential of breastmilk stem cells to be used in regenerative medicine.
Tools to successfully and rapidly diagnose mastitis, understand its causes, and develop potential clinical management avenues.
The aetiology and management of low milk supply, such as in mothers of preterm infants.
Appetite control mechanisms in the breastfed infant, and the protective function of breastfeeding against obesity later in life.
Effects of maternal diet on breastmilk composition and the function of the lactating breast.
Using breastmilk stem cells as models to give insight into the aetiology of cancer.
Anti-cancer properties of human breastmilk.
Cancer stem cells in glioblastoma and gliosarcoma.


English and Greek

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being


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