Genetic modification may be a controversial subject to many people, especially those concerning GM food. But the bad press that the technology may have gotten in the last few years have not stopped scientists in the industry to somehow develop new ways to harness its potentials. Just one of the recent advancements that genetic modification may have accomplished involved dairy cows.
Scientists and researchers in China have been able to genetically modify cows to produce milk similar to that found in human milk. The scientists have created over 300 cows that produce milk expressing the properties similar to that of human breast milk. The scientists have been successful in genetically modifying the cows in order to express the human lyzozyme or HLZ and other proteins into Holstein cattle embryos. The embryos were then implanted into surrogate cows. When the cows started lactating, their milk began to show traces of HLZ and other proteins found in human milk.
HLZ in human milk helps in the fight against bacteria and also helps improve a baby’s immune system in its first few days of life. That is why human breast milk is considered the best food for babies to take during its first few months of life. Although most of the milk formulas for babies are made from cows milk, infants may not readily ingest and absorb the nutrients it may contain.
By making cows milk more and more similar to human milk, it may be possible to provide infants a nutritional boost by drinking milk coming from the genetically modified cows. Since it may not always be possible for human mothers to lactate and provide breast milk for infants, milk from GM cows may provide a viable alternative.
The said study was conducted by researchers from State Key Laboratories for AgroBiotechnology at the China Agricultural University which is headed by Ning Li, the director of the department and the lead author of the study. The researchers also collaborated with the Beijing GenProtein Biotechnology Company in testing the GM cows and ordinary cows. The results of the study was published in the journal PloS One.