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What are HMOs?

Breast milk is the best, evolutionary engineered nutrition for infants and prolonged breastfeeding decreases the risk of infections, diabetes and obesity. One group of core beneficial nutrients for these extraordinary benefits are human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs).

HMOs are a family of complex carbohydrates found in high concentrations in human milk. They are the third largest solid component of motherís milk after lactose and lipids. More than 200 different HMOs have been discovered so far. Each HMO has a different structure which enables them to perform different beneficial functions.

Why are they unique?

The high concentration and diversity of HMOs in human milk is unique and no other mammal can compare to these extraordinary levels. The infant is not able to digest them and therefore the evolutionary purpose of HMOs is to provide food for specific beneficial bacteria in the infantís intestines. This results in beneficial changes to the intestinal bacteria (the microbiota). Remarkably HMOs also prevent the attachment of harmful bacteria to babyís intestinal wall, improve overall intestinal health, boost the immune system, and support brain development in babies.

Properties and applications

Through our biotechnological advances, Glycom is leading the worldís large scale production of HMOs under GMP conditions. Glycomís HMOs are soon to be added to leading infant formulas.

We and our partners have conducted placebo-controlled, parallel, blinded, randomized, clinical studies showing HMOs are safe and well tolerated in infants and adults. The studies reveal that HMOs positively change the microbiota by specifically promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria and indicate significant health benefits to children and adults. Additionally, it was shown that HMOs have anti-infective properties reducing risk of respiratory infections in infants.

Currently we have an active pre-clinical and clinical program to investigate and prove the beneficial properties of HMOs. Further, we encourage research on HMOs and their properties by donating material to research groups around the world. Groups interested should visit our HMO donations page.