Human Milk Oligosaccharides are the third most abundant component of human milk.  In this presentation, Lars Bode reviews the latest research into HMOs, focusing on elucidating functions and biosynthesis of these complex glucans which are highly abundant in human breastmilk but not in infant formula. 

The research uses in vitro and in vivo models to study how HMOs affect and benefit the breastfed infant, and how HMOs are synthesized in the lactating mammary gland.  This is a very fast-moving field of research and as more discoveries are made, more questions arise.  Human milk is alive and it is a personalised nutritional source: the structures of HMOs are diverse and very different between mothers. 

The maternal factors (both genetic and environmental) driving variation in HMO composition are not fully understood.  While there is some redundancy, HMOs are not fully interchangeable and the effects are often highly structure-specific.  The short- and long-term effects of feeding individual HMOs are not fully evaluated – more human intervention study is needed.