Food allergies are reported to be on the rise, with an estimate of between 11-26 million people suffering in Europe. One of the most common of these allergies is intolerance to dairy products. Although studies in this area are limited, there are EU-funded projects that have sought ways to fill this gap.
One such gap filler comes from an unlikely region in terms of research on an EU level; under the project titled, GOMILKSICILY ('Investigation on Hypoallergenic Goat Milk in Sicilian Breeds'). Scientists in Sicily have been able to share their expertise in studying the suitability of goat milk products as an alternative for humans with cow milk protein allergies.
The research was carried out at the Animal Production Group at the S.En.Fi.Mi.Zo department at the University of Palermo, in Sicily with the support of the Marie Curie Development Scheme titled TOK-DEV ('Transfer of Knowledge Development') and with funding of almost 0.8 million EUR.
Researchers based here specialise in science of entomology, phytopathology, agrarian microbiology and zootechnology. Thus, they were keen to exchange their expertise and capitalise on the farm animal resources, which were unavailable elsewhere in Italy.
Along with eight European scientific experts and seconding two researchers at the Roslin Institute, UK, they were able to look into ways of conserving and valorising farm animal genetic resources, such as goat's milk, in a better way.
Their research also focused on the implementation of molecular genetic technology in animal breeding schemes, in combination with statistical
genetics methodologies. The project has also taken a huge leap forward in masterminding a training centre specifically in the field of animal genetics, genomics and bioinformatics.
These improved research facilities have enabled the Sicilian region, which was seen as lacking in economic development, to benefit from their southern location as a prime location for goat milk production. With this strong research infrastructure in place, the region has become more competitive in the European research area in the protection of farm animal resources.
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More information: University of Palermo portale.unipa.it/
Marie Curie Development Scheme cordis.europa.eu/mariecurie-actions/home.html