A team of researchers from UC Davis has done some interesting research into the biochemistry of human milk, using a specialized lab-on-a-chip technology by Agilent.
From UC Davis press release:
Oligosaccharides are sugar-like molecules that are the third-largest solid component of breast milk, after lactose and lipids. More than 200 oligosaccharides have been identified in milk, but there has been no way to measure their presence in an individual sample in a single test or run. They do not have direct nutritional value, and their role in development is not clear.
A recent study published online in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry detailed the successful use of two analytical tools to identify oligosaccharides in samples from five women in single runs. The tools were a “glycan chip” developed by Agilent specifically for this purpose, and a time-of-flight mass spectrometer used to characterize each oligosaccharide by determining its molecular mass to a precision of two parts per million.
The researchers found large variations between women in the total numbers and abundance of different oligosaccharides, with the total number per individual varying from 33 to 124. Only a few oligosaccharides were common to all subjects.
The combination of techniques has enabled a more complete understanding of these complex oligosaccharides, said Carlito Lebrilla, professor of chemistry at UC Davis and lead author on the paper. The techniques could be extended to other glycan structures, with medical and therapeutic applications, he said.
The new technique paves the way for further research into oligosaccharide function in human development, said co-author Rudi Grimm, worldwide proteomics and metabolomics market development manager with Agilent’s Life Sciences and Chemical Analysis (LSCA) group.