Effects of Human Milk Oligosaccharides in infant and adult nutrition and immune health
Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like obesity, type II diabetes, and cardiovascular disease account for almost 70% of global deaths annually. In most of these conditions immune dysregulation or a diminished function of the immune system is an important component. Human Milk Oligosaccharides (HMOs), a group of complex sugar structures in human milk, have an array of benefits in infant physiology, from prebiotics to inhibitors of pathogen adherence and protection. HMOs are not digested by the human gastrointestinal tract but can enter the circulation through the intestine in small amounts. They have systemic immune regulating effects like protection against pathogens, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. However, it is not yet known through which cellular pathways or mechanisms HMOs exert these effects, and if some HMOs are more potent than others.
The aim of this project is to delineate the mechanisms and effects of HMOs in synergy with other milk ingredients on the immune system and devise functional assays to substantiate these effects. Our approach will enable us to identify targets for HMOs on human immune cell populations. Global genome and pathway analysis of immune cell populations isolated from human donors will be combined with advanced cell sorting techniques. Thus, we expect to unravel the mechanism by which HMOs exert their beneficial role on the immune system to battle a number of NCDs. Individual HMOs that are able to beneficially influence immune cell populations will be investigated for synergies with other dairy ingredients. Ultimately, we aim for a healthier and more conscious dietary proposition for the consumer