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View Full Version : Genetically modified cows produce 'human' milk



Islander
04-04-11, 10:58 PM
http://www.telegraph.co.uk
Tuesday 05 April 2011
By Richard Gray, Science Correspondent

The scientists have successfully introduced human genes into 300 dairy cows to produce milk with the same properties as human breast milk.
Human milk contains high quantities of key nutrients that can help to boost the immune system of babies and reduce the risk of infections.
The scientists behind the research believe milk from herds of genetically modified cows could provide an alternative to human breast milk and formula milk for babies, which is often criticised as being an inferior substitute. They hope genetically modified dairy products from herds of similar cows could be sold in supermarkets. The research has the backing of a major biotechnology company.

The work is likely to inflame opposition to GM foods. Critics of the technology and animal welfare groups reacted angrily to the research, questioning the safety of milk from genetically modified animals and its effect on the cattle's health.

But Professor Ning Li, the scientist who led the research and director of the State Key Laboratories for AgroBiotechnology at the China Agricultural University insisted that the GM milk would be as safe to drink as milk from ordinary dairy cows. He said: "The milk tastes stronger than normal milk. “We aim to commercialize some research in this area in coming three years. For the “human-like milk”, 10 years or maybe more time will be required to finally pour this enhanced milk into the consumer’s cup.”

China is now leading the way in research on genetically modified food and the rules on the technology are more relaxed than those in place in Europe.

The researchers used cloning technology to introduce human genes into the DNA of Holstein dairy cows before the genetically modified embryos were implanted into surrogate cows. Writing in the scientific peer-reviewed journal Public Library of Science One, the researchers said they were able to create cows that produced milk containing a human protein called lysozyme. Lysozyme is an antimicrobial protein naturally found in large quantities in human breast milk. It helps to protect infants from bacterial infections during their early days of life.

They created cows that produce another protein from human milk called lactoferrin, which helps to boost the numbers of immune cells in babies. A third human milk protein called alpha-lactalbumin was also produced by the cows. The scientists also revealed at an exhibition at the China Agricultural University that they have boosted milk fat content by around 20 per cent and have also changed the levels of milk solids, making it closer to the composition of human milk as well as having the same immune-boosting properties.
Professor Li and his colleagues, who have been working with the Beijing GenProtein Biotechnology Company, said their work has shown it was possible to "humanise" cows milk.

In all, the scientists said they have produced a herd of around 300 cows that are able to produce human-like milk. The transgenic animals are physically identical to ordinary cows.
Writing in the journal, Professor Li said: "Our study describes transgenic cattle whose milk offers the similar nutritional benefits as human milk. "The modified bovine milk is a possible substitute for human milk. It fulfilled the conception of humanising the bovine milk." Speaking to The Sunday Telegraph, he added the “human-like milk” would provide “much higher nutritional content”. He said they had managed to produce three generations of GM cows but for commercial production there would need to be large numbers of cows produced.

He said: “Human milk contains the ‘just right’ proportions of protein, carbohydrates, fats, minerals, and vitamins for an infant’s optimal growth and development. “As our daily food, the cow’s milk provided us the basic source of nutrition. But the digestion and absorption problems made it not the perfect food for human being." The researchers also insist having antimicrobial proteins in the cows milk can also be good for the animals by helping to reduce infections of their udders.

Genetically modified food has become a highly controversial subject and currently they can only be sold in the UK and Europe if they have passed extensive safety testing. The consumer response to GM food has also been highly negative, resulting in many supermarkets seeking to source products that are GM free. Campaigners claim GM technology poses a threat to the environment as genes from modified plants can get into wild plant populations and weeds, while they also believe there are doubts about the safety of such foods.

Scientists insist genetically modified foods are unlikely to pose a threat to food safety and in the United States consumers have been eating genetically modified foods for more decades. However, during two experiments by the Chinese researchers, which resulted in 42 transgenic calves being born, just 26 of the animals survived after ten died shortly after birth, most with gastrointestinal disease, and a further six died within six months of birth.
Researchers accept that the cloning technology used in genetic modification can affect the development and survival of cloned animals, although the reason why is not well understood.

A spokesman for the Royal Society for the Protection of Animals said the organisation was "extremely concerned" about how the GM cows had been produced. She said: "Offspring of cloned animals often suffer health and welfare problems, so this would be a grave concern.
"Why do we need this milk – what is it giving us that we haven't already got."
Helen Wallace, director of biotechnology monitoring group GeneWatch UK, said: "We have major concerns about this research to genetically modify cows with human genes.
"There are major welfare issues with genetically modified animals as you get high numbers of still births. "There is a question about whether milk from these cows is going to be safe from humans and it is really hard to tell that unless you do large clinical trials like you would a drug, so there will be uncertainty about whether it could be harmful to some people. "Ethically there are issues about mass producing animals in this way."

Professor Keith Campbell, a biologist at the University of Nottingham works with transgenic animals, said: "Genetically modified animals and plants are not going to be harmful unless you deliberately put in a gene that is going to be poisonous. Why would anyone do that in a food? "Genetically modified food, if done correctly, can provide huge benefit for consumers in terms of producing better products."

http://tinyurl.com/3w4bfu3

oceanforkids
04-05-11, 12:27 AM
China is now leading the way in research on genetically modified food and the rules on the technology are more relaxed than those in place in Europe.

I wonder if China is doing the research for Monsanto?

highlander
04-05-11, 01:24 AM
It's just so ... wrong.

Islander
04-05-11, 09:37 AM
It's hard to get anyone excited about shenanigans in the plant world, but when you begin mixing up mammalian species (like growing that human ear on a mouse), there's a "ewww" factor that gets people wound rather tightly sometimes.

Maurya
04-05-11, 11:18 AM
In addition to the legitimate concerns about GMO anything, this article represents concepts that are just creepy beyond belief to me.

Katee
04-05-11, 11:30 AM
You know they've already messed with animal milk.

Duane and i saw a science report on TV over a year ago about a goat that gives spider silk instead of milk.

It seems this particular spider has incredibly strong silk with great possibilities for military and police work (i think like a lightweight kevlar vest). It would also make a very strong, lightweight rope. But they can't get enough spider silk from spiders, so they spliced that gene with the goat so that the milk it produces is actually spider silk.



It may be impossible to craft a silk purse from a sow's ear. But one day, it may be possible to fashion a silk bulletproof vest from, of all things, goat's milk.

For decades, scientists have been in awe of the lowly spider and the magical material it uses to spin its web. After all, strands of spider silk are a mere one-tenth the thickness of human hair, yet they can snag a bee traveling 20 miles per hour without breaking.

Ounce for ounce, spider silk is five times stronger than steel and about three times tougher than man-made fibers such as Kevlar. And that makes the material ideal for all sorts of interesting uses — from better, lighter bulletproof vests to safer suspension bridges.

But "harvesting" spider silk hasn't been easy. Unlike silkworms, spiders aren't easy to domesticate. "Spiders are territorial carnivores, they eat each other if placed in contact or in close proximity," says Jeffrey Turner, president and CEO of Nexia Biotechnoloies, Inc. "It's like trying to farm tigers."

Spider-less Silk

Now, researchers at the Quebec-based Nexia along with scientists at the U.S. Army's Soldier Biological Chemical Command (SBCCOM) in Natick, Mass., say they may have figured a way out of the sticky situation.

In the latest issue of Science, the researchers report that they've managed to successfully create artificial spider silk that's nearly as good as the real thing — and without involving a single spider.

How? Turner and his team of bio scientists took the genes responsible for creating spider silk into the cells of mammals, such as goats. Using those genes, the re-engineered goats were then able to produce in their milk the same protein that makes up spider's silk.

Turner says that by isolating those proteins from the goats' milk, they were then able to "spin" a thread remarkably similar to natural spider silk.

"On things like toughness and modulus of elasticity — the ability to stretch without breaking — we're right on the money," says Turner.


Not Quite There Yet

Still, Turner does note there are still many other factors that need to be worked out before we see bridges built with man-made silk.

For one, the amount of silk-building protein that Nexia has been able to produce has been limited to a few strands. And it isn't clear yet how much protein may be able to be harvested in such a manner. Turner says his team expects to have a second research paper that would examine such details out by the end of this year.

And Nexia's experimental silk strands aren't an exact match — yet. Turner notes that they're only 20 percent to 40 percent as strong as natural spider silk.

"We still have more work to do," says Turner. "But to get this far is just a step forward."

Herd of Silky Goats?

And moving even further forward is what really excites Turner and his military partners.

The most promising aspect of their research so far: The spider genes are faithfully passed on among the experimental goats. And that means producing more artificial silk might be as simple as breeding more of the genetically-enhanced goats naturally.

Since starting the experiment three years ago, Turner says Nexia's flock in Montreal has grown to nearly 50 goats. Within the next several years he expects the flock to scale up to "several thousand."

And as the company continues its research and grows out the herd, Turner believes that it won't be long before we could see commercial applications. Nexia has already plans to market the material, dubbed BioSteel, for use as fine suture material and biodegradable fishing line by 2003 or 2004.

If all goes well by then, he says it wouldn't be too much of a stretch to see lightweight body armor made of artificial spider silk within three to five more years.

ABCNEWS' Ned Potter and Paul Eng contributed to this report.

ABC News (http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/CuttingEdge/story?id=98095&page=1)

Islander
04-05-11, 11:37 AM
We seem to be creating a science-fiction world. Glad I won't be inhabiting it for too many more years.

Aaltrude
04-05-11, 03:07 PM
We seem to be creating a science-fiction world. Glad I won't be inhabiting it for too many more years.

At least not until your next incarnation :p 105

highlander
04-05-11, 07:33 PM
At least not until your next incarnation :p 105
I've sent in many requests to whoever is watching to make a really big note to not send me back.

Aaltrude
04-05-11, 08:14 PM
I've sent in many requests to whoever is watching to make a really big note to not send me back.

..........or at least to a calmer, friendlier planet. Hee hee.

Islander
04-05-11, 08:29 PM
Psychic friends tell me I am in my last house, whatever that means. I don't plan to revisit, anyway. Now, if I had a WayBack Machine...aah, never mind.

oceanforkids
04-05-11, 10:03 PM
Man oh man, this whole article is just highly disgusting.

Reincarnation? I'm comin' back as an otter. No one cares about their "fur" anymore, so they just slide around and play and eat all day. Well, sort of, but they're generally pretty safe...and cute. Gawd, I haven't been "cute" for 20 years!

The only advantage to getting old is everyone writes off your foibles to senility!! You know those Maxine cartoons? My Mom's name was Maxine and the cartoon Maxine reminds me so much of her it's just spooky. She was full of spirit and spunk, too. All of a sudden I've become a Maxine.

Islander
04-05-11, 11:40 PM
The nice thing about being menopausal is you can be blunt to the point of pain, and people will praise you for your honesty.

:: ducks ::

Why yes, I DO see myself as a Maxine. :D

Maurya
04-06-11, 11:17 AM
Psychic friends tell me I am in my last house, whatever that means.

I would love to meet some of your psychic friends. Since moving to Pennsylvania several years ago, I have lost touch with everyone I knew who had those sort of talents and abilities.

Islander
04-06-11, 01:30 PM
I would love to meet some of your psychic friends. Since moving to Pennsylvania several years ago, I have lost touch with everyone I knew who had those sort of talents and abilities.
I guess you couldn't see my tongue in my cheek there. Those psychic friends are far in my past, although they were indeed genuine and well-meaning.

Aaltrude
04-06-11, 05:05 PM
Don't discount psychics Islander. There are a lot that are not worth bothering about but there do appear to be a small number who do seem to have some sort of uncanny ability.

mellowsong
04-06-11, 05:49 PM
Locally a researcher at the Medical University of South Carolina is creating "meat" in the laboratory. I find that quite disgusting and cringe thinking that he's getting government money for that garbage!!!!

highlander
04-06-11, 10:56 PM
Locally a researcher at the Medical University of South Carolina is creating "meat" in the laboratory. I find that quite disgusting and cringe thinking that he's getting government money for that garbage!!!!

Mystery meat is as disturbing as mystery moisture. (getitoffgetitoffgetitoff)