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Professor Gerald Tannock (Microbiology & Immunology) has been awarded $789,900 over two years for a research project investigating the use of novel carbohydrates (oligosaccharides) that can be added to infant formula made from cow’s milk.
The ‘Functional Formula’ project has been funded in the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s 2012 science investment round announced on 23 August.
The carbohydrates used in the research will be extracted from New Zealand resources and modified chemically so that they resemble the oligosaccharides that occur naturally in human milk.
These kinds of oligosaccharides will enhance the growth of certain bacteria (bifidobacteria) that dominate the collection of bowel bacteria in healthy breast milk-fed babies.
Oligosaccharides selected on this basis will lead to the production of infant formula from cow’s milk that will mimic the effect of human milk in enriching the bacterial collection in baby bowels with bifidobacteria.
Specifically, the research will involve testing the effects of these novel carbohydrates on bifidobacterial physiology. Particular focus will be on the effects of the carbohydrates on a keystone species of bifidobacteria. The physiological effects on the bacteria will be measured and the impact of these physiological effects on the interplay between different kinds of bifidobacteria will be studied. Mathematical models will be generated from the data and used to predict the outcome on bowel ecology of adding the novel carbohydrates to infant formula.