Rethinking Healthcare

These goats produce human breast milk

These goats produce human breast milk

Posting in Healthcare

Transgenic goats produce milk with the breast milk enzymes and proteins that human babies need most.

This Spring brought news of goats engineered to lactate the building blocks of a malaria vaccine. Now Co.Exist reports on transgenic goats that produce milk with breast milk enzymes and proteins. Which begs the question: What's more odd, milking goats for drugs, or milking goats for human milk? And which work-around has a better chance of widespread adoption?

UC Davis scientists created the transgenic goats by transferring human genes for breast milk enzymes and proteins into goat embryos. Co.Exist's Peter Smith reports:

The transgenic dairy goats can make milk with up to about 60% of the lysozyme and lactoferrin found in mother’s milk, which means a longer shelf life (these chemicals kill pathogenic bacteria) and also a faster cheese-ripening process (they kill off the milk’s beneficial bacteria sooner).

Human breast milk gives human babies unique immunological defenses that they can't get from other animal's milk. For babies of mothers who aren't present, or can't nurse them, milk from these transgenic goats could provide the next-best alternative.

The UC Davis team has been studying the engineered goats' milk for a number of years now to perfect the formula (no pun intended). So far they've only tested it on "the toddler equivalent" in pigs, who've shown increased resistance to illness after drinking the milk. No word yet on when it will enter clinical testing in humans.

[via Co.Exist]

Photo: Liz West/Flickr

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Audrey Quinn

Contributing Writer

Audrey Quinn is a Brooklyn-based multimedia journalist focused on health, tech and the economy. Her radio stories can be heard on Marketplace, Studio 360, PRI's The World, NPR's Latino USA, Deutsche Welle Radio and The Believer Magazine podcast. In addition to her work with CBS Interactive she produces multimedia science stories for online publications and is a teaching assistant at the Transom Story Workshop. Her investigative work has been awarded by the Fund for Investigative Journalism and The Nation Institute’s Investigative Fund. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure