Navigation Links
Metabolic engineer synthesizes key breast milk ingredient, makes research possible

URBANA - A University of Illinois microbial engineer has synthesized a sugar in human milk that is thought to protect babies from pathogens. That's important because 2FL, the shorthand scientists use to describe this human milk oligosaccharide (HMO), has not been added to infant formula because HMOs are incredibly expensive.

"We know these oligosaccharides play a vital role in developing a breast-fed baby's gut microbiota and in strengthening their immunity. 2FL (2-fucosyllactose) is the most abundant HMO in breast milk," said Michael Miller, a U of I professor of food microbiology.

To learn more about the HMO's function, Miller would like to do research with 2FL in newborn piglets, an excellent model for the human infant.

Unfortunately, 1 milligram of 2FL costs $100, meaning a single study would require $1 million for the HMO alone, he said.

Microbiologist, meet metabolic engineer. Yong-Su Jin, a departmental colleague and professor in the U of I's Institute for Genomic Biology, believed he could synthesize this oligosaccharide found in breast milk using a strain of E. coli engineered for that purpose.

A new postdoctoral researcher in Jin's laboratory had done some of the legwork for such a project in Korea, and they used their combined experience and expertise to engineer an HMO that can be produced very cheaply and quickly: 1 gram of 2FL per liter of E. coli broth. That means it's possible to produce 2FL in the lab, making Miller's piglet research feasible, he said.

"E. coli makes a starting material for 2FL as part of its normal metabolism, and that suggested to us that it was possible to use E. coli to produce 2FL," Jin said.

"The trick is to get the E. coli cells to increase their production of the starting material (GDP-fucose), which we did by overexpressing the pre-existing biosynthetic pathway. Then we had to give it the ability to transfer GDP-fucose to lactose. We solved that problem by inserting a gene from another organism," he added.

The next step was developing an E. coli mutant that can assimilate lactose. "Because the engineered mutant cannot use the lactose for its own growth, it instead uses lactose to make great quantities of 2FL, the HMO that many researchers want to study," he said.

Miller will soon be able to begin a study investigating the role of 2FL in infant nutrition and eventually make recommendations about whether it should be added to infant formula. "And we can use this technique to synthesize and study the hundreds of other HMOs in human milk too."

The research has other interesting possibilities unrelated to infant nutrition, he said.

Jin and Miller believe that their work has pharmaceutical applications. "Adding 2FL to the food of soldiers on deployment could keep them out of sick bay. More than half of all soldiers in the field are incapacitated at some point with diarrheal illness caused by Campylobacter jejuni," Jin said.

A second use might be reducing the number of Campylobacter infections that originate in raw or undercooked poultry. "If chickens consumed poultry feed containing 2FL, pathogens would bind to this oligosaccharide instead of the mucosal lining of the bird's intestine and be eliminated well before the chicken arrived at your supermarket," Miller added.

Contact: Phyllis Picklesimer
University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences

Related biology technology :

1. Profil Institute Continues to Publish New Findings in Metabolic Research
2. MiMedx Group, Inc. to Present at the 6th Annual Canaccord Genuity Cardiovascular, Aesthetics and Metabolic Disorders Conference
3. New UCLA Engineering research center to revolutionize nanoscale electromagnetic devices
4. Engineers achieve longstanding goal of stable nanocrystalline metals
5. Three Hertz Foundation Fellows Receive Presidential Honors; Leaders in Applied Physical, Biological and Engineering Sciences
6. Genetically engineered bacteria prevent mosquitoes from transmitting malaria
7. Two Blades Foundation licenses genome engineering technology to KWS
8. Engineer-turned-librarian awarded travel stipend by SPIE Digital Library
9. Bronstein, Gewirtz & Grossman, LLC Announces Investigation of American Oriental Bioengineering Inc.
10. Stanford engineers perfecting carbon nanotubes for highly energy-efficient computing
11. Reverse engineering epilepsys miracle diet
Post Your Comments:
(Date:6/23/2016)... June 23, 2016   Boston Biomedical , ... compounds designed to target cancer stemness pathways, announced ... granted Orphan Drug Designation from the U.S. Food ... gastric cancer, including gastroesophageal junction (GEJ) cancer. Napabucasin ... to inhibit cancer stemness pathways by targeting STAT3, ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... SILVER SPRING, Md. , June 23, 2016 ... evidence collected from the crime scene to track the criminal ... sick, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) uses ... Sound far-fetched? It,s not. ... whole genome sequencing to support investigations of foodborne illnesses. Put ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... 2016 , ... Charm Sciences, Inc. is pleased to announce ... Research Institute approval 061601. , “This is another AOAC-RI approval of the Peel ... President of Regulatory and Industrial Affairs. “The Peel Plate methods perform comparably to ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... June, 23, 2016  The Biodesign Challenge (BDC), a ... ways to harness living systems and biotechnology, announced its ... in New York City . ... students, showcased projects at MoMA,s Celeste Bartos Theater during ... , MoMA,s senior curator of architecture and design, and ...
Breaking Biology Technology:
(Date:4/26/2016)... , April 27, 2016 ... the  "Global Multi-modal Biometrics Market 2016-2020"  report to ... ) , The analysts forecast the ... CAGR of 15.49% during the period 2016-2020.  ... number of sectors such as the healthcare, BFSI, ...
(Date:4/14/2016)... April 14, 2016 BioCatch ... Detection, today announced the appointment of Eyal Goldwerger ... role. Goldwerger,s leadership appointment comes at a ... of the deployment of its platform at several of ... technology, which discerns unique cognitive and physiological factors, is ...
(Date:3/29/2016)... March 29, 2016 LegacyXChange, Inc. ... "LEGX" and SelectaDNA/CSI Protect are pleased to announce our ... in a variety of writing instruments, ensuring athletes signatures ... created collectibles from athletes on LegacyXChange will be assured ... the DNA. Bill Bollander , CEO ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):