Advances and challenges for obtaining human milk oligosaccharides: Extraction from natural sources and synthesis by intentional design

Junai Gan, Cuiyan Cao, Bernd Stahl, Xianfeng Zhao, Jingyu Yan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) are a group of structurally diverse unconjugated carbohydrates that are bioactive and functional beyond their important function as the reference for prebiotics. As the health benefits of HMOs are becoming more apparent, both academia and industry have shown increasing interest in accessing HMOs. Scope and approach: This review describes the structure and endogenous biosynthesis of HMOs and provides an overview of current approaches to obtain HMOs, which are classified based on source materials and production technologies. Strategies of each approach are highlighted. Challenges and future needs for HMO production are discussed. Key findings and conclusions: HMOs can be extracted from natural sources, such as human milk as the original source for a wide spectrum of HMOs and domestic animal milk for certain oligosaccharides. Oligosaccharides that are chemically and structurally identical to their naturally occurring counterpart present in human milk can be synthesized through various approaches, including chemical synthesis, enzymatic synthesis, chemoenzymatic synthesis, microbial fermentation, and mammary cell cultivation. Systematically considering the strategies and challenges of these approaches for obtaining HMOs may lead to new solutions and accelerate the advances in this field. The advances in HMO generation and production will accelerate their application in infant formulas, medical foods, and dietary supplements to improve the health of infants, mothers, those with special healthcare needs, and the general population.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104203
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalTrends in Food Science and Technology
Early online date14 Oct 2023
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2023


  • Biosynthesis
  • Extraction
  • Human milk oligosaccharide
  • Large-scale production
  • Synthesis


Dive into the research topics of 'Advances and challenges for obtaining human milk oligosaccharides: Extraction from natural sources and synthesis by intentional design'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this