Philippine Science Letters
vol. 4 | no. 1 | 2011
published online April 20, 2011


The Milky Way of a Star Scientist:
Carlito B. Lebrilla

by Ronie J. Calugaya

Assistant Professor, School of Sciences and Engineering, Biology Department, Ateneo de Manila University, Loyola Heights, Quezon City, Manila



Out of the myriads of complex bioactive molecules produced by mammals, milk is the universal source of nutrition for the newly born. Though human milk is generally steeped in essential nutrients in highly absorbable form, ironically it also contains a high concentration of seemingly useless substances which are undigestible and have no nutritional value to the infant. Such composition of a nutrition key to the development and survival, and hence the propagation of species, has boggled scientists for years.

Thanks to the childhood wonder and interest that fuelled the passion and expertise of Dr. Carlito B. Lebrilla on analytical tools for the study of biological molecules. Together with his colleagues at the University of California-Davis, they discovered that the role of the undigestible components of milk is to serve a unique love triangle: a mother-child-microbe relationship!