Posted: October 1, 2012
New Zealand researchers say they’ve found a way to genetically engineer cows to produce hypoallergenic milk, good news for the 1.3 million children who have milk allergies.
A solution to this problem may just reside in a single, tailless cow in New Zealand. This special calf, conceived through genetic modification and cloning, produces milk that contains no detectable levels of beta-lactoglobulin (BLG), the protein that is believed to trigger allergic reactions.
What’s more, the hypoallergenic milk from this calf appears to be even more nutritious than regular cow’s milk, as it contains double the amount of the healthy milk proteins known as caseins.
This experiment, detailed in a paper published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, marks the first time that scientists have successfully altered the protein composition of milk before it leaves the cow, says Mike Van Amburgh, Ph.D., an associate professor of animal science at Cornell University, in Ithaca, New York.
If bred in sufficient numbers, this type of genetically modified cow could one day provide milk for allergic infants and adults, according to the researchers in New Zealand who bred the calf. The team was led by Anower Jabed, Ph.D., a pharmacologist at the University of Auckland and a fellow at AgResearch, a government-funded institute for agriculture and food research.
Although this calf may hold the key to circumventing milk allergies, much more work remains to be done before hypoallergenic milk from genetically modified cows appears on supermarket shelves.