HMOs may modulate neonatal immunity by altering host
epithelial and immune cell responses in the infant
gut, modify immune responses systemically or act as
soluble decoy receptors to block the attachment of
various microbial pathogens to cell surface receptors,
not only in the intestine but also in other sites such
as the urinary tract.
The benefits of HMOs can extend to health outcomes
beyond infancy such as allergies or cognitive
functions, making HMOs the focus of intense current
scientific research with increasing number of studies
unraveling their role in human physiology.
Several classes of lectins, glycan-binding proteins
secreted by human immune cells, have been described in
the literature and can help regulate immune responses,
such as galectins, siglecs, c- type lectins, and
selectins. HMOs can bind to these lectins on human
cells, primarily expressed on cells of the immune
system. Binding of HMOs to these receptors results in
regulation of adaptive and innate immune protection
against infection and inflammation.