By Audrey Quinn
Posting in Healthcare
Breast milk -- health workers say babies need it, parents rave about it, and surrogates are giving it away for free. But will technology render it obsolete?
Parents have fed their babies formula milk since the mid 1800's, when Nestlé debuted ‘Farine Lactée.’ The formula industry enjoyed a boon of good press for nearly a hundred years, as their product was seen as convenient, cheaper than staying home from work to nurse, and modern.
In the 1970's and 1980's international health agencies began to promote the health benefits of breast milk. Mothers in the industrialized world returned to the practice, and the formula industry shifted its target demographic to developing countries. Though many countries heavily regulate the industry' advertising, researchers estimated this year in the British Medical Journal that, "Currently, suboptimal breastfeeding is associated with over a million deaths each year and 10% of the global disease burden in children."
Human breast milk has unique ingredients that protect babies against illness. They're special sugars called human milk oligosaccharides (HMO). And until now, they've been too prohibitively expensive ($1000 pre gram) to put into formula.
University of Illinois researchers announced in a new report online today in the journal Microbial Cell Factories that they've found a work-around. They've figured out a way to synthesize the most common HMO, called 2FL, in the lab. They did this by engineering a strain of E. coli bacteria to produce the sugar for them, quickly and cheaply. The researchers will next be testing whether the manufactured 2FL can be added to formula milk.
This new research may be the most promising breast milk work-around yet, but its certainly not the first. I've previously reported on efforts to produce goats that synthesize the human breast milk ingredients and pre- and pro-biotics supplements that can improve formula quality.
If infant formula technology truly succeeds at reaching equal benefits to breast milk, I predict we're about to see an interesting publicity war over the continued need for the real thing.
Sep 10, 2012
When the world gets to the point where society requires the mother to work over spending those moments that are so crucial to a baby, I think we need to reverse engineer our way of life. What will be the impact on the child 20 years into new way of feeding the baby, a different type of autism. Will a Monsanto type company outlaw real breast feeding? Are we advancing, it is so hard to tell?
Even with the ingredients currently in formula, they are a poor match for the very small number of breast milk components they are copying. They are not identical. Many are in much more poorly absorbed forms, and therefore present in larger quantities, so a baby produces much larger smellier faeces on formula. Why anyone thinks that is good for the baby, I don't know. The 'milk' basis will always be something that is a highly processed but poor imitation as well. A breastfeeding mother's breasts can produce antibodies to her baby's illness within hours, even if the mother herself has never caught that illness, and fend off sickness, along with all the other antibodies delivered every single feed. Formula will never contain antibodies. No-one even knows the purpose of the recently discovered stem cells in breastmilk, but we could not make them, nor could they be kept alive in a container of formula. Breastmilk changes in composition throughout a feed to match a baby's hunger vs. thirst, throughout the day, and adapts to the age of the baby over the months/years. The thirty or so ingredients in current formula don't very much resemble what they are trying to copy now - why anyone would ever think the hundreds of things in breastmilk could be manufactured, I don't know. Even the formula companies know that is impossible. You can bet even if oligosaccharides were added, they would not be bio-identical. Anyway, I would rather snuggle close skin to skin and feed my baby. For a mother who cannot provide sufficient milk herself for whatever reason, formula is a useful supplement to keep a baby alive. But that's it. And that's all a manufactured product will ever be.
Who in their right minds want anything to do with GMO? By the way, breasts are not just for milk! They are lovely to fondle!
Thus far, artificial or GMO altered food products have created increased rates of obesity and other human DNA malfunctions...so these people want to start the degenerative process much earlier. If breast milk is healthier, there can be no 'replication' replacement is not 'replication'. Most early biology and chemistry classes teach this on the High School level. The mantra of Capitalism: if you build it they will come is quickly becoming the demise of humanity as we know it. Simulated, or artificial, synthetic foods are for simulated, or artificial, synthetic people not humans.
utter non sense! As long as there is a man alive on this earth there will be laws passed if need be that women shall have a set of them. Those who refuse to have them will fall victim to the worlds new laws needed to control the population, as the worlds highest court consisting of 5 men and 2 women rule unanimously to uphold the value law that outlines the requirements to prove worthy of a place at the table. No boobies, you will be captured and gentle put to sleep by the good folks at the SPCA. ( makes sense given they are already trained to do this). A world with out boobies, might as well take away the sunshine, beer and football.
This argument only rests on the potential nutrition of a BM substitute. Breast feeding is not only about BM. Breastfeeding is much more than feeding a baby/toddler. there is a lot of research about it... it is in that sense that this "article" disinform the public as opposed to inform.
Expanding research is indicating everything from intestinal flora to disease fighting anti-bodies are passed to children in breast milk. Replicating 1 more item might be helpful in the making a better formula for circumstances where feeding formula is needed, but science is a long way from matching the many benefits of breast milk.