The Science News article, "Mother Lode" highlighted recent work on the structure and function of complex milk sugars in human and bovine milk. David Mills, Ph.D., a Professor in the Departments of Viticulture & Enology and Food Science & Technology, and Mark Underwood, M.D., a medical doctor at the UC Davis Children's Hospital, collaborated on a project to improve the health of preterm infants who are at increased risk of developing necrotizing enterocolitis, a potentially life-threatening inflammatory disease that destroys the intestinal lining. Dr. Mills and Dr. Underwood carried out a small clinical trial where they provided one of two strains of Bifidobacterium in preterm infant milk or breast milk to establish if and how beneficial bacteria colonized in the infant gut. Dr. Mills and Dr. Underwood discovered that the oligosaccharides present in breast milk play a vital role in promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria, and that mother produced breast milk with varying oligosaccharide content depending on whether they delivered preterm.
Although breast milk is considered the ideal food for both infants and their gut microbiota, there is not enough breast milk to meet the needs of premature infants worldwide. As a replacement, Foods for Health Institute researchers are looking for oligosaccharides in bovine milk that mimic the beneficial function of those in breast milk. Dr. Daniela Barile was also featured in the article for her work on locating and collecting milk oligosaccharides in whey obtained as a byproduct of cheese-making.
The article continues to highlight the critical work being carried out by UC Davis scientists and Foods for Health Institute researchers. Read more of the article at Science News: sciencenews.org/article/mother-lode.