Cows churn out "human breast milk"

Thu Jun 16, 2011 10:27am EDT
 
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By Haze Fan and Maxim Duncan

BEIJING (Reuters) - Moo-ove over, Mum.

Chinese scientists have produced a herd of genetically modified cows that make milk that could substitute for human breast milk -- a possible alternative to formula in a nation rocked by tainted milk powder scandals.

Researchers at the State Key Laboratory of Agrobiotechnology of the China Agricultural University introduced human genetic coding into the DNA of Holstein dairy cow embryos, then transferred the embryos into cow surrogates.

In 2003, after years of testing on mice, scientists managed to create the first cow that could produce milk with the same nutritional properties as human breast milk, but with a taste even stronger and sweeter.

"The genetically modified cow milk is 80 percent the same as human breast milk," said Li Ning, a professor and the project's director as well as lead researcher.

"Our modified cow milk contains several major properties of human milk, in particular proteins and antibodies which we believe are good for our health and able to improve our immune system."

Over 300 cloned cattle now live on an experimental farm in suburban Beijing, with new calves delivered every week.

Li's team, which is supported by a major Chinese biotechnology company, aims to have an affordable form of the milk on the market within three years.   Continued...