The article, “Bacteroides in the Infant Gut Consume Milk Oligosaccharides via Mucus-Utilization Pathways,” was published in the well-regarded journal Cell Press and included co-authors from UC Davis, Stanford University, and the University of Michigan.
Dr. Marcobal’s research on the effects of breast milk and the infant gut began when she worked as a postdoctoral researcher in Dr. Dave Mills’s lab, researching the role of human milk oligosaccharides. Her successful work at UC Davis made possible the opportunity for another postdoctoral appointment at Stanford University, where she is currently completing her research.
Her work contributes to a body of research that seeks to explain how a mother’s breast milk provides important nutrients for her infant’s overall health and well-being. Complex sugars in breast milk feed the beneficial bacteria in an infant’s gut, which aids the baby in proper digestion and absorption of nutrients. Dr. Marcobal’s research explores how those bacteria condition the baby’s digestive system to receive solid foods, particularly fibrous foods like grains and vegetables.
In her future research, Dr. Marcobal is interested in continuing to work on projects that explore the relationship between diet and infant gut. She received her Ph.D. in food science in Madrid and is a trained organic chemist. Her doctoral research examined the beneficial bacteria in wine, although she now works with the infant gut.
Dr. Marcobal also notes that her seemingly wide-spread interests have come full circle in her most recent project. She is currently examining organic compounds in infant urine and feces, drawing on both her training as a microbiologist and her understanding of organic chemistry. Her multidisciplinary skills have proved to be an asset to the Foods for Health Institute and also to the body of research that seeks to understand the beneficial biological connections between a mother’s breast milk and a baby’s intestinal development.