Genetically modified cows may one day produce human breast milk

Apr 05, 2011 by Deborah Braconnier report

(PhysOrg.com) -- Researchers in China led by Ning Li, the director of the State Key Laboratories for AgroBiotechnology at the China Agricultural University, have created cow milk similar to human breast milk which could one day replace the need for baby formula.

Currently is not readily digested and absorbed by human , so for those mothers who choose not to breastfeed or who are unable, the only current alternative is formula. Many argue that infant formula is inadequate in providing the full nutrients an infant needs. contains numerous proteins as well as human lysozyme (HLZ), which is a key in fighting and boosting an infant’s immune system.

With this in mind, Li and his team introduced human lysozyme and other human proteins into the embryos of Holstein cattle and then placed these embryos into surrogate cows. In this recent study, printed in Public Library of Science One, the researchers state that it was cloning technology used to introduce the human genes into the cows DNA. When these genetically modified cows started lactating, the milk they produced contained HLZ as well as other human proteins such as lactoferrin and lactalbumin which also help to boost an infant’s immune system.

A purification process was then used to increase the fat content and milk solids, as well as make the milk taste closer to that of human breast milk. It is the researcher’s hope that one day we will be able to purchase this genetically modified cow’s milk in grocery stores.

Protestors against the cloning and genetic modification of animals worry about the animal welfare, as well as the possible danger of exposing infants to this genetically modified milk. In one of the experiments in this study, of the 42 calves born, ten died not long after birth and the other six died within months. Health problems are not uncommon in genetically altered animals and they suggest this be taken into consideration before suggesting infants consume this milk.

Explore further: Scientists sequence complete genome of E. coli strain responsible for food poisoning

More information: Yang B, Wang J, Tang B, Liu Y, Guo C, et al. (2011) Characterization of Bioactive Recombinant Human Lysozyme Expressed in Milk of Cloned Transgenic Cattle. PLoS ONE 6(3): e17593. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0017593

Related Stories

Anxious parents misdiagnose milk formula intolerance

Jun 19, 2009

Some parents may be unnecessarily switching infant milk formulas for their healthy infants. A study published in BioMed Central's open access Nutrition Journal, found that many parents misinterpret common baby behaviors as mil ...

Recommended for you

Sorghum and biodiversity

13 hours ago

It is difficult to distinguish the human impact on the effects of natural factors on the evolution of crop plants. A Franco-Kenyan research team has managed to do just that for sorghum, one of the main cereals ...

Going to extremes for enzymes

Sep 01, 2014

In the age-old nature versus nurture debate, Douglas Clark, a faculty scientist with Berkeley Lab and the University of California (UC) Berkeley, is not taking sides. In the search for enzymes that can break ...

User comments : 23

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Quantum_Conundrum
1.7 / 5 (12) Apr 05, 2011
Health problems are not uncommon in genetically altered animals and they suggest this be taken into consideration before suggesting infants consume this milk.


Yah think?

Adding new genes "randomly" (from the perspective of the host DNA and cell, not the engineer,) is introducing new genetic vulnerabilities to the organism. The organism may also be ALLERGIC to the proteins you have added to it, and therefore would effectively be ALLERGIC to itself, thus DEATH. A total of 16 dead out of 42 "within months" is a 38% death rate for calving, and you want to feed that to a baby? Oh wait, this is China, maybe this is part of their population control strategy...

Now you have human protiens in COWS. Anyone heard of Cow Pox and Mad Cow Disease? Mixing human DNA has the dangerous potential to create easier genetic bridging for various strains of disease, OR cause artificial mutations...

This is exactly what scientists should NOT be doing with Genetic Engineering...
Jaeherys
not rated yet Apr 05, 2011
Adding new genes "randomly" (from the perspective of the host DNA and cell, not the engineer,) is introducing new genetic vulnerabilities to the organism

Any mutation is technically random to the organism. If it is not a viable mutation then it won't survive or will not even grow.

To assume that it will create an allergy is presumptuous. If indeed there was an allergy, it would be likely to effect all of the calves to some extent as this is quite a drastic change to the cows.

From the article,
we have created 17 healthy cloned transgenic cattle that expressed rHLZ, but only 4 transgenic cattle were lactating normally

Without more information, it is just guesswork.

This is exactly what scientists should NOT be doing with Genetic Engineering...

We do this all the time when engineering bacteria to produce compounds they normally would not. The fact that it was applied to a cow is a matter of detail. The overall result could be just as benign or dan
Jaeherys
5 / 5 (1) Apr 05, 2011
... or dangerous.
Anyone heard of Cow Pox and Mad Cow Disease?

It is highly unlikely this will have any affect at all on us in terms of diseases that may mutate which previously did not harm us but would after the mutation.

The changes they are implementing have the majority of effect on the areas that produce milk. More drastic changes to the DNA of cows, IE. increasing muscle density, would be more detrimental to the cow than changing some of the types of proteins produced in their milk.

httpDELETE://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myostatin
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.4 / 5 (9) Apr 05, 2011
Adding new genes "randomly" (from the perspective of the host DNA and cell, not the engineer,) is introducing new genetic vulnerabilities to the organism.
Thankyou Dr Bullshit.
This is exactly what scientists should NOT be doing with Genetic Engineering...
You're exactly the kind of person who thinks with his mouth and hinders the progress of science.
Kingsix
4.7 / 5 (3) Apr 05, 2011
Quantum may be overly apprehensive about jumping into genetic engineering and his reasoning may or may not be sketchy, but I would side with him on at least part of his apprehension. I guess adding some stuff to cow milk isn't too big, but what I would be leery of is the larger connections that we cannot currently comprehend. I will make a comparison to something I know about. In the past we didn't understand the global ecosystem, people tend to think that doing something, throwing their cig butts out the window for example, will have no effect on the greater environment, but in understanding the global environment, that one act can reach far, maybe not directly, and when repeated x1mil, well you get the idea. Changing the cows doens't worry me, its what that does 50 steps away that bugs me.
Gen Engineers need to focus on whats important, like creating pigs that grow chicken wings all down their backs, that will regrow in a week when harvested. Cheap Hot Wings for all!!
Jaeherys
5 / 5 (1) Apr 05, 2011
I think one of the main reasons people are frightened of the effects of genetic engineering is that they think scientists just go in and say, "Hey lets try this and see what happenes!", when in reality that does not happen nor would it work any majority of the time.

In actuality, all that is happening is the change of what proteins are produced (how much and when is something else entirely). Say I want to make a plant grow faster. I would find some gene (or protein) that either regulates something to change the growth rate or something that directly affects the growth of that plant. If I was to just try random stuff, odds are is that I would fail 99% of the time and that the plant would just not develope.

In this way we are at least sort of safe guarded from completely unknown results. But of course, one does need to carefully analyze the possible results of these modifications as there can be some pretty drastic results.
Mahal_Kita
not rated yet Apr 05, 2011
Changing the cows doens't worry me, its what that does 50 steps away that bugs me.


Like everyone else does when genetically modified products end up in the food chain..

Gen Engineers need to focus on whats important, like creating pigs that grow chicken wings all down their backs, that will regrow in a week when harvested. Cheap Hot Wings for all!!


Naah.. That will most likely be used as an alternative for plant-based biofuels..
Skultch
5 / 5 (3) Apr 05, 2011
pigs that grow chicken wings all down their backs


mmmmmmmmm bacon wings. The two most delicious foods ever. COMBINED!! Oh sweet humanity make this happen!!!
Quantum_Conundrum
1.1 / 5 (8) Apr 05, 2011
Jaehyrs:

This is NOT the same as other forms of GM, because they put HUMAN protiens in the cows.

The way the Chinese are on human rights (or lack thereof in their country,) these sickos are probably trying to do the reverse as well: insert animal, plant, or bacterial DNA into humans.

We don't need Chinese Trollocks and Ogres running around with God knows what diseases and deformities spreading in the population because of it.

And then there's REAL ethical questions, like is it even a HUMAN once they put something like starfish DNA/RNA/protien into human gametes and breed them?
Skultch
5 / 5 (3) Apr 05, 2011
these sickos are probably trying to do the reverse as well: insert animal, plant, or bacterial DNA into humans.


Ahh, the infamous jumping slippery slope argument. The fear slides down one slope, then hops on over to and even steeper one. Where do I go with my protest sign?
Quantum_Conundrum
1 / 5 (5) Apr 05, 2011
Ahh, the infamous jumping slippery slope argument. The fear slides down one slope, then hops on over to and even steeper one. Where do I go with my protest sign?


It's not a "slippery slope". Such experiments have been tried in the past even before DNA and RNA were discovered.

Also, do a quick google search, and you'll find that apparently, China has already done this with Rabbits in 2005, though they destroyed the embryos...after collecting stem cells.
Jaeherys
5 / 5 (3) Apr 05, 2011
This is NOT the same as other forms of GM, because they put HUMAN protiens in the cows.

Actually it is. Where the original DNA comes from and where it goes is not relevant.

As for putting other types of DNA into humans, I don't know about you but I'd love to be able to photosynthesize my own glucose!

Another interesting thing which you either don't know about or are choosing to ignore is that we share a *lot* of DNA with other creatures. For instance, it may not be nessecary to put starfish DNA into humans as the ability to regenerate is already coded into us.

http://www.guardi...-no-scar

What may be required is the augmentation of said genes to either boost or regulate these functions as overtime, the ability for them to work has been comprimised or turned off in some way.
Skultch
4 / 5 (4) Apr 05, 2011
It's not a "slippery slope".


So, when's the flight to China to commence our protests? As you say, they are "probably" doing the reverse right now. Ignorant people tried it before, so now that we KNOW how dangerous it could be, we have to nip it in the bud, right; just in case that probably is certainly. I mean, the safety of the human race is at stake, so as ethical people, we need to do something about this NOW! Talk is cheap.

Or, maybe the risk hasn't quite slid down the slope far enough yet. But, if we wait for actual evidence it might be too late! Ohhhhhh nooooooes!

Sorry for extra heavy snark. I just don't see the point of sowing fear, when it is obvious that the global scientific community responsible for oversight, knows everything we know about the situation, AND MORE. Apparently you don't trust them, so now laymen should get involved. That's called making it political, and I just don't see how that's prudent here.
Kingsix
1 / 5 (1) Apr 05, 2011
Sniff Sniff, whats that I smell? No its not the beautiful odour of bacon wings wafting through the air, its Zombies! I always considered viruses, evil curses and mutations to be a source of the future zombie apocalypse, strange I didn't think of the Chinese. Wait if Resident evil happens to be genetic mod, then please know I never saw those movies and I am an Xbox guy.
knikiy
5 / 5 (1) Apr 05, 2011
OK so the cows now produce human proteins in their milk. I wonder if they also produce cow antibodys for these foreign proteins and how might human infants respond to these?
wealthychef
5 / 5 (2) Apr 05, 2011
Completely misleading and hyped title AGAIN. These cows are not producing human breast milk, period, and the article says so flat out.
resinoth
1 / 5 (1) Apr 05, 2011
give this to one infant, and it dies, and you're done with this research for 50 years at least.
Plus, why do we have tits, people. whatchoo doin with those tits that yo babiez gotta drink cow milk?
Is it just not economical to supplement formula with HLZ?
This is R&D for a company. It is "science" only because we hear about it. End result is profit from additional exploitation of cows, for the patent holder.
Sickening!
mrlewish
5 / 5 (1) Apr 05, 2011
We need to keep a breast of this udderly stupendous news.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (3) Apr 05, 2011
Well I can see one industry set to milk this cash cow:
http://articles.n...ce-cream

-WHOA! What if humans could lay EGGS which could be incubated outside the womb, thereby freeing women from months of back pain, morning sickness, pregnosaurusness, and the agony of birth? "Urethra I have found it!!" -Kelly Bundy
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (3) Apr 05, 2011
NoNo, Im sure we have dormant reptile genes which harbor this potential... embryos could be born with their own wombs which could grow along with them, yeah like the big floater from 2001! (who said that?)

This could be the step which would finally free humanity from the need for all the hormones and accoutrements which waste our time and drive us nuts.
rethinker
not rated yet Apr 05, 2011
I want to offer my first born for the study.
I will gladly follow any cow around the farm to let my son
suck it up.
iiibogdan
not rated yet Apr 07, 2011
they hacked the cow
pyrean
1 / 5 (1) Apr 14, 2011
This seems like wasted research. They are trying to solve a problem that does not exist. To start off with, people do not need to drink milk. Babies can get milk from their own mothers. Furthermore, they are creating slaves. Why not just enslave some people that can do so much more than just produce milk?