DuPont accelerates HMO research for oral care and adult supplementation
09 Jul 2020 --- As the potential benefits of human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) continue to be elucidated for infants and adults alike, DuPont Nutrition & Biosciences (N&B) is making major steps in its HMO sector. A new Finnish study has revealed that dental caries-associated bacterium Streptococcus mutans is unable to grow on the company’s Care4U 2’-Fucosyllactose (2’-FL), in contrast to on galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS) and lactose. Meanwhile, a scientific expert panel recently concluded that the Care4U 3-FL, which the company is planning to commercialize, is Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) for a range of uses, including foods for consumers of all ages.
“Infants typically start teething around six months of age, a time at which they are still consuming human milk or infant formula along with weaning foods. Therefore, dental health is important, starting early in infancy. Both human milk and infant formula contain ingredients such as proteins and calcium that can protect against dental caries but also contain carbohydrates that can increase the risk of caries,” Ratna Mukherjea, Technical Fellow and Global Research and Development Leader of HMOs at DuPont N&B, tells NutritionInsight.
She continues that human milk also contains components that impact the composition of oral microbiota. This is why it is important to extend these benefits to infants who have to be bottle-fed.
“Human milk is known to contain factors that protect against caries, so we were interested to know how HMOs, and especially 2’-FL, affect S. mutans, one of the most studied bacteria related to dental caries. The data suggest that the addition of 2’-FL to infant formula would not support the growth of S. mutans. The results highlight the selectivity of 2’-FL consumption by oral bacteria,” adds Johanna Hirvonen, Senior Scientist at DuPont N&B.
The in vitro study was a collaboration between DuPont N&B and the Institute of Dentistry at the University of Turku, Finland. The researchers compared the ability of S. mutans to grow on 2’-FS, GOS, lactose and xylitol. In addition to revealing that S. mutans cannot grow on 2’-FL, the study reaffirmed that xylitol reduces the growth of the bacteria.
Adhesion to tooth surfaces is the first requirement for dental plaque to form. Notably, 2’-FL decreased the adhesive properties of some of the studied S. mutans strains. In infancy, the oral microbiota developing and delaying colonization of potentially pathogenic bacteria is vital. Accordingly, DuPont N&B is now expanding on this line of research with other oral bacteria and additional HMOs.
An opportunity for positive influence on microbiome
Mukherjea explains that the developing infant oral microbiome is influenced by several factors, including mode of feeding. “Infants who are fed human milk as opposed to infant formula may have different oral microflora. With the addition of 2’FL, we may have an opportunity to positively influence the oral microbiome,” she details.
Addressing the other examined nutrients, Mukherjea notes that although it is structurally different from HMOs, GOS is frequently used in infant formula to mimic some of the prebiotic benefits of human milk. “Further, the benefits of HMOs, such as 2’-FL, extend beyond the prebiotic function of GOS. Meanwhile, lactose is present in human milk and infant formula. The benefit of each ingredient in infant formula has its own merit and nutritional purpose. The addition of 2’-FL can bring some of the benefits of HMOs that are naturally present in human milk,” she further explains.
The company states that although HMOs have not been studied for their effects on oral bacteria, it is important to evaluate their effects on oral microflora and potential impact on oral health. Mukherjea notes the result of this preclinical in vitro study is the first step to testing the hypothesis. This comes as HMOs become increasingly prevalent in infant formula.
DuPont N&B has been making major strides in the infant microbiome space with its four-year project with the APC Microbiome Ireland SFI Research Centre to rebalance the gut bacteria of babies after antibiotics or Caesarean-section births. Also in this arena, DSM acquired major HMO supplier Glycom in April.
Research into HMOs is also booming, with Nestlé Health Science revealing that adding two HMOs to its infant formula can reduce respiratory tract infections in infants with cow’s milk protein allergy. Meanwhile, Jennewein Biotechnology states that HMOs may inhibit the binding of noroviruses to human receptors. BASF’s own brand of 2’-FL has been linked to compositional changes in the gut microbiota associated with reduced body weight.
In other moves for the company, DuPont N&B has also demonstrated that a high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) method allows formulators to analyze the amount of 2’-FL and 3-FL in a range of food products. Formulators can also quickly and efficiently perform shelf-life studies in these food applications. The company says that this is a major step forward for manufacturers interested in developing high quality, efficacious nutritional products for early life nutrition and beyond.
“The health benefits of HMOs and probiotics can be extended beyond infant nutrition to that of adult nutrition and dietary supplements,” flags Mukherjea. Also active in this space, Standard Process has launched GI Stability, a prebiotic wafer containing 2’-FL to support digestive and immune health.
The company has also seen its 3-FL attain GRAS status for use in various applications including formulas intended for infants and young children, other foods and beverages consumed by toddlers under three years as well as foods for the general population.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been notified of DuPont’s GRAS conclusion. This announcement follows February research into the safety of 3-FL. In October, DuPont submitted a novel food application with the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to obtain market authorization in the EU for 3-FL.
“We continue to make progress with the commercialization of 3-FL. Regulatory filings and reviews completed by the regulatory agencies such as the FDA and EFSA are a key step to commercialization,” concludes Mukherjea.
By Katherine Durrell
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