HMO study

We are conducting a human intervention study on metabolically healthy volunteers in which we are investigating the metabolisation of human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) and the influence of the gut microbiome on the systemic availability of HMOs. HMOs are food ingredients and can be purchased as dietary supplements.

Background and research question

HMOs are associated with beneficial health effects in infants. They support the development of the gut microbiome by acting as both prebiotics and specific antimicrobials (Engfer et al. 2000 Am J Clin Nutr 2000;71:1589-96; Gnoth et al. J Nutr. 2000 Dec;130(12):3014-20). At the same time, HMOs have bacteriostatic effects and directly limit the growth of potential pathogens (Lin et al. J Biol Chem. 2017;292:11243-9). They also have anti-adhesive effects by mimicking surface receptors on intestinal epithelial cells to which pathogenic microbes can attach, thus acting as decoy receptors (Triantis et al. Front. Pediatr. 2018, 6, 190; Morozov et al. Mol. Nutr. Food Res. 2018, 62, e1700679). Furthermore, HMOs are thought to exert effects on cell recognition and signalling independent of the microbiome (Donovan. Ann. Nutr. Metab. 2016, 69 (Suppl. 2), 42-51). These include interactions with immune cells, which can modulate immune system development and immune responses (Carr et al. Front. Immunol. 2021, 12, 60408) and influence cognitive function (Fan et al. Nutrients 2023, 15, 3743; Berger et al. Nutrients 2023, 15, 719.). In order to understand the underlying mechanisms for HMO-mediated effects, information on absorption, metabolism and excretion is required, which will be investigated in this study.

Flyer HMO study english
© Sabrina Schenk

Study design and procedure

Our study comprises seven examination days on which repeated blood samples are taken - an oral glucose tolerance test (oGTT) is performed on the first examination day and HMOs are administered and 24-hour urine samples are collected on the other six examination days. In addition, there is an eighth examination date on which the gastric emptying rate is determined by giving regular breath samples.


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Sabrina Schenk

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Marie Christine Simon

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