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Chinese Scientists Make Cow Producing Human-Like Milk 127

hackingbear writes "Scientists from China Agricultural University have produced 17 healthy cloned cattle expressing recombinant human lysozyme using somatic cell nuclear transfer. Lysozyme, a bactericidal protein that protects human infants from microbial infections, is highly expressed in human milk but is found in only trace amounts in cow milk. The cloned cows produce milk with similar nutritional benefits as human milk, and the scientists hope their results will lead to new techniques that could be further refined for production of active human lysozyme on a large scale."
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Chinese Scientists Make Cow Producing Human-Like Milk

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  • I can see Freud clicking his heels in glee already! :-D

  • Yeah! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MikeDirnt69 ( 1105185 ) on Monday April 04, 2011 @09:17AM (#35707706) Homepage
    Leave the breasts for the fathers!
  • for those of us that are lactose intolerant
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Human breast milk contains lactose as well. Lactose intolerance doesnt occur until after weaning; the body stops producing lactase, as it "assumes" it is done with milk and is moving to solid food.

    • by Ecuador ( 740021 )

      Ehm, human milk is needed for feeding infants, not for you!
      Odds are you did not have lactose intolerance when you were an infant, as "by design" humans are supposed to be able to digest milk fine for a while after birth, and then slowly lose the ability ("lactose intolerance" - could be nature's way of protecting the mother's milk from hungry adults). Interestingly, in societies where dairy products were consumed regulardly, mutations that allowed adults to produce the required lactase to process lactose we

      • by wimg ( 300673 )

        Lactose intolerance isn't uncommon in Europe. Although the milk-drinking Dutch only have 1% of their population having lactose intolerance, the average in Europe is around 20%.
        I'm happy there's at least 1 brand producing lactose-free products in Europe now, but it should be a standard for everyone !

      • in societies where dairy products were consumed regulardly, mutations that allowed adults to produce the required lactase to process lactose were favored

        Just out of curiosity, how do you envision the root of such a bias to become genetically favored? "Oh, he's so dreamy, and he doesn't fart after drinking the goat milk?", therefore that created more breeding opportunities? Perhaps I don't fully appreciate the possible severity of lactose intolerance?

        As an aside, since cheese is well know to contain little or no lactose, and is almost universally tolerated by lactose intolerant humans, wouldn't it seem more likely a culture would discover and embrace cheese

        • by Ecuador ( 740021 )

          Just out of curiosity, how do you envision the root of such a bias to become genetically favored?

          I imagine when you have easy access to milk and difficult access to other types of food, your survival chances are better if you can digest milk. Anyway, I guess instead of having me form hypotheses, when I am not in the field, you should best read what the researchers have to say. For example: http://www.nature.com/ng/journal/v39/n1/abs/ng1946.html [nature.com]

          But, as you say yourself, the problem is not cheese, so "cheese culture" is probably irrelevant. The example paper above, researches the correlation between the

          • But, as you say yourself, the problem is not cheese, so "cheese culture" is probably irrelevant. The example paper above, researches the correlation between the lactase genes and the history of animal domestication.

            The problem with that is cheese has been around somewhere between 10,000 and 5,000 years, which squarely fits within that study's 7,000 year window; which overlaps with animal husbandry and domestication of lactating animals. Which suggests, any such study which fails to account for cheese within such cultures, likely isn't seeing the whole picture. That really sounds like half a study.

            I did some quick checking, and lactose intolerance, at its worst, can interfere with nutritional uptake as well as hinder w

        • As one who is lactose intolerant (and of European decent) I can only tell you from my personal experience:

          Nausea, heartburn like symptoms, and diarrhea are what I can expect after a glass of milk. Continued lactose has resulted in GI tract agitation to the point of bleeding.

          I don't drink a lot of milk any more but I do love me some cheese.

        • Lactose intolerance will kill you in a primitive society through anemia (blood in the GI). And it would be sufficiently unpleasant that people would figure it out quickly, and simply not consume dairy.

          Being able to consume milk products drastically increases the survival advantage of mammalian animal husbandry. Fowl have the natural ability to concentrate calories from vegetation in a form which doesn't kill the animal (eggs), but mammals (outside of milk) don't.

          So if you have a population which is
    • We'll see, the sound of ga-ga has been associated with babies cooing for so long it may well be indefensible trademark-wise.

  • Bigger boobs ARE better.

    Yet another Chinese proverb validated

  • Finally we can get Breast milk ice cream [bbc.co.uk] back in stores !!!

  • ... Chinese babies welcome news of replacement of boobs with bottled milk.

    "We're tired of having to share a tit with a cigarette smoker", says one.

  • With all the trouble needed to make this, wouldn't a human farm be cheaper?

    • Probably, but given the usual requirements for milk production, the emotional cost would be WAY too high... plus, you'd have to figure in quality control issues that are already solved for the cow milk industry if you were to chemically trigger milk production in humans.
      • The existance of wet nurses proves those requirements aren't necessary, lactation can be induced via a breast pump (or a volunteer willing to do some sucking...). Even if a baby turns out to be the simplest method it's only once per cow^Wperson.

        The main problem will be that humans don't make that much milk and one woman is only going to produce enough product for a few babies.

        • The main problem will be that humans don't make that much milk and one woman is only going to produce enough product for a few babies.

          While you are correct, I think this just means that we'll have to do some selective breeding just as with dairy cows. After all, it's not like pre-domesticated cows produced anything like the volumes seen on dairy farms today.

          The real problem is that cows don't have minimum wage laws, OSHA, etc. While there are probably some women, especially in the developing world, desperate enough to become professional milk-producers, the operating expenses must naturally be higher than a cow-based dairy producer. Add

  • by Tigger's Pet ( 130655 ) on Monday April 04, 2011 @09:35AM (#35707924) Homepage

    if they can get it approved and produced in large-enough quantities. It has been known for a long time that breast milk is far better than any of the 'formula' milks alternatives out there. There are, sadly, many women who cannot breast-feed for one reason or another (it may not be a high percentage, but it is still a lot of women). For them, they want to see the best done for their child and if this is a way of keeping their child healthier than the alternative then I'm sure an awful lot of them would take it as an option. I know that my wife and I would have done when she couldn't breast-feed our 2nd born due to her suffering from post-natal depression.

    • I would love this. My first child was born a year ago, and bottle feeding turned out to be the only way my wife could regain sanity (I'd bottle feed while she caught 3 uninterrupted hours of sleep). This would have helped a lot.
    • Can I be a child? I really need that natural comfort
  • by spacefem ( 443435 ) on Monday April 04, 2011 @09:37AM (#35707956) Homepage

    This is all well and good, but it would take some seriously exhaustive studies to prove that this should be given to babies. Formula manufacturers have been trying to replicate human milk for YEARS without success. Milk is more than chemicals. It's hormones, it's enzymes, it changes based on what illnesses the mother is currently making antibodies for, it even changes from morning to night. I didn't think I'd ever become a breastfeeding militant, but it's happened... breastfeeding worked out so much better for my daughter & I than anyone ever lead me to believe, yet people still look for ways out of the "inconvenience" of, say, having to see women nurse in public (gasp!).

    I love science, but if we're really smart we'd put less energy into trying to duplicate human milk, and look for more ways to support, assist, & enable nursing mothers.

    • Multiple Sclerosis (Score:4, Informative)

      by Ungrounded Lightning ( 62228 ) on Monday April 04, 2011 @02:24PM (#35711956) Journal

      Formula manufacturers have been trying to replicate human milk for YEARS without success. Milk is more than chemicals. It's hormones, it's enzymes, it changes based on what illnesses the mother is currently making antibodies for, it even changes from morning to night. ...

      Indeed.

      Another issue with cow vs. human milk is risk of Multiple Sclerosis. Feeding cow milk to human infants drastically increases that risk.

      MS is an autoimmune reaction against the myelin sheaths of nerves. Much of the avoidance of autoimmune reactions is done soon after birth, when the differentiated immune cells take a "grand tour" and those that recognize the body's own structures commit suicide. But myelin sheaths is one of a handfull of things not present until after this period. So it avoids attack later by having a "I'm special, don't attack me." sequence coded into the protein, next to its major antigenic region.

      There's a protein in milk that has the same sequence. Unfortunately, the bovine version of the protein is slightly different in that region. So heavy exposure to cow's milk (perhaps in combination with other factors) occasionally leads to the immune system missing the signal, becoming sensitized to the myelin protein, and eventually attacking and destroying the nerve sheaths, creating one of the forms of MS.

      To prevent this, some recombinant cattle have been created that express the human, rather than the bovine, version of the protein in question. Expected result, if this were to become the norm in dairy herds: No more risk of MS from drinking cow's milk than from drinking human milk.

      At least for people. Calves might occasionally get MS as a result, unless the rest of the systems in question are also replaced with the human version.

  • Am I the only one that thought it was funny that they developed this at CAU? CAU is producing human-like milk!
  • that can produce melamine in the milk by themselves?

  • Sure, I see the scientific prowess, I can even sort of appreciate it... But am I the only one to find it disturbing, to say the least, that we reprogram other animals to suit our needs rather than adapt our ways of life or ourselves ?

    • What is the difference between drinking 'normal' cow milk and 'human-modified' that makes it seem so disturbing? I don't see how this is any different to eating goats cheese, as an example. Now - if they were talking about modifying dog milk then I might just find it slightly worrying.

      • by axx ( 1000412 )

        Hmm, maybe the fact that the milk comes from a cow which is a clone that has been mutated to a express a human protein, rather than just milk coming from a “normal” cow or goat, which is then curded to make cheese (for which several methods exist).

        And for that matter, if you think about it, adult weaned human beings drinking “normal” cow-milk is sort of disturbing too.

  • Awesome, now we can genetically engineer mutant cows that express human proteins - we can build an industry of these mutant cows that supply human proteins into a global distribution network, shipping product overseas in tremendous tankers and transports and delivered by truck to retail locations across the globe...

    Or, you know, we could just breastfeed our kids.

    • Re:Breastfeed? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Nidi62 ( 1525137 ) on Monday April 04, 2011 @10:10AM (#35708312)

      Or, you know, we could just breastfeed our kids.

      Not every woman is able to breastfeed. Whether because they are taking medication for an illness, have had surgery or some medical condition that makes breastfeeding very unlikely if not downright impossible, or some other reason. These women are already being denied a major bonding experience between themselves and their baby(and this can be very traumatic for some women), why should their babies have to suffer by being given less healthy formula when it's possible for them to get something akin to human breast milk?

  • The product must come in a shape resembling half a grapefruit, be skin colored and warm and flexible to the touch. Teenage boys will love the product.
                  However there is a reality that any product that assists in reproduction or the survival of babies is the last thing this world needs. There is a population bomb and it is already killing us.

  • I didn't rtfa or even the summary. The title implies that the chinese made human-like milk which produces cows. That's the way i always want it to stay for me.
    • The title implies that the chinese made human-like milk which produces cows.

      In fact the thumbnail image for the summary on the main page is a picture of these cows. They are sassy and fabulous.

  • All milk contains the protein alpha-lactalbumin, but only human breast milk contains the multimeric form (just means the protein has more than one peptide chain).

    A decade of studies by Dr. Catharina Svanborg at Lund University in Sweden have demonstrated that human breast milk has efficacy against many forms of cancer, and that the agent responsible is multimeric alpha-lactalbumin. This unique protein selectively destroys malignant cells in two ways: by apoptosis on contact, and when morphologically transfo

  • Being fat and producing tainted milk from eating processed crap is one job that won't be going overseas.

  • without regulated and mandatory GMO labeling [wikipedia.org] they could introduce this milk into your corner store (certainly in Canada [hc-sc.gc.ca] anyway) and you wouldn't even know about it.
  • The researchers have added a human component to cow milk, but they didn't do eveything that's different in one shot. The upside is this is a naturally occuring antibiotic that would have benefits not just for babies but also for adult drinkers. Your body already produces this (for example, it's in your tears and helps a lot with preventing eye infections). It may also help with reducing the need to load cow with as much antibiotics as they do. To the poster who asked about antibodies, it won't have them
  • But does it contain melamine?

  • Without natural cow's milk, they'll be moooving on to greener pastures.

  • "...well I don't want it. You said you wanted it."
    "Not me. I don't want it. You drink it...."

  • Seriously, why can't we have a chemical process such that I empty the lawnmower in, and get milk/cheese/cream out? That would be hugely beneficial, and have major benefits for environment, food supply, and vegans.

  • Now they just need to make humans produce cow milk. THEN we'll be in business.
  • Frankly, I just find this a-mooo-sing.

In Nature there are neither rewards nor punishments, there are consequences. -- R.G. Ingersoll

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