We are pleased to announce a new collaboration between glyXera, the University Medical Center Utrecht, and Danone Nutricia Research, Utrecht, The Netherlands.

With the signing of the cooperation agreement, glyXera’s long-standing and fruitful collaboration with Danone Nutricia Research reaches new heights, further cementing glyXera’s role as a valuable and reliable partner in industry research and development projects.

The parties involved join forces in a novel, multidisciplinary public–private collaboration to study the composition of human milk and to gain new insights into its influence on early childhood respiratory diseases. The cohort study “Protecting against Respiratory tract Infections through human Milk Analysis” (PRIMA) is designed to leverage the extensive know-how of all cooperation partners to deepen scientific understanding about human milk components and identify possible avenues of treatment and prevention of respiratory infections and allergies in early life. It will be one of the largest cohorts to date, combining both longitudinal human milk samples and prospective clinical data collection.

The importance of human milk in infant development

Human milk provides the optimal balance of nutrients as it is specifically adapted to support the growth and healthy development of the infant. Breastfeeding clearly has several benefits for infants, such as the ability to protect against the risk and impact of neonatal infections. For instance, exclusive breastfeeding until four months of age, followed by partial breastfeeding, is positively linked to a reduction in gastrointestinal and respiratory infections.

Nevertheless, it is uniquely challenging to determine the effect of breastfeeding on the development of diseases in later life, such as allergies, because of competing definitions of allergic diseases and the wide variety of breastfeeding habits that are difficult to compare against one another. Moreover, the composition of human milk is highly variable, yet very specific for a given individual. This makes it difficult to attribute certain physiological functions, like protection against allergic diseases or development of a healthy intestinal flora, to specific components of human milk.

Key aspects of the PRIMA cohort study

As detailed in the recently published clinical study design paper about this prospective observational cohort, a total of 1000 mother–child pairs will be recruited during the first month postpartum. The study population will consist of healthy mothers and children in the Utrecht region, the Netherlands, that already started breastfeeding. Human milk samples will be collected at one week, one month, three months, and six months, if possible.

Data and samples from this cohort will be used to study the underlying mechanism of several components in human milk which might lead to the development of new concepts or hypotheses for the management and therapy of immune related disorders such as allergies and infections.

A comprehensive set of analyses will be conducted to investigate human milk from a variety of angles, including antibody composition analysis, human milk oligosaccharide analysis, T cell composition analysis, extracellular vesicle analysis, and more.

glyXera’s contribution to the partnership

glyXera will be in charge of performing oligosaccharide composition analyses of the human milk samples – a fundamental step for many subsequent evaluations. Using glyXera’s patented high-performance glyXboxCE technology platform based on multiplexed capillary gel electrophoresis with laser-induced-florescence detection (xCGE-LIF), detailed quantitative oligosaccharide profiles, down to the level of individual oligosaccharides, will be determined for the milk samples. These profiles will be used to classify the samples with respect to the maternal secretor and Lewis phenotypes into one of the four major human milk groups, which, in conjunction with the quantitative profiles, serve as fundamental data points among the different kinds of physiological data gathered by our partners in this study.

The whole consortium is committed to working together to comprehensively integrate all findings based on our combined decades of experience and expertise in various disciplines related to human milk analysis. The good relationships between all teams that have been built in the past will increase the quality of the output for everyone involved while optimizing the needed effort and resources.

For many years, we have maintained close collaboration and interested exchanges with Danone Nutricia Research, which has already resulted in various small to medium-sized projects and joint publications. Now our upcoming task within the PRIMA cohort study is a great opportunity to further expand upon our shared knowledge and to deepen the trust grown over the years.

– Robert Kottler, Project Lead and Cooperation Officer at glyXera GmbH

The detailed compositional analysis of the first set of HM samples is scheduled to start in our laboratories within the first half of this year and is expected to be completed by the end of this year. Naturally, we will work with our collaboration partners to compile our findings into research articles to be published at a future date.

If you would like to learn more about glyXera’s high-performance glycan analysis technologies and their applications to human milk research, analysis of synthetic glycans, or biomarker discovery, please feel free to get in touch.