High protein, hypoallergenic milk from AgResearch cow?

October 2, 2012

AgResearch scientists have bred the first cow in the world to produce high protein milk that may be hypoallergenic.

The work by scientists at AgResearch’s Ruakura campus has been published in the current edition of the prestigious American science journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

​“This is tremendously significant,” says AgResearch Chief Executive Dr Tom Richardson. “PNAS is one of the top journals in the world, and to be published in it reflects the world-leading quality of the science behind this discovery.  This will be one of the top-ranking science publications from New Zealand this year.”

The AgResearch team, led by Dr Goetz Laible, wanted to discover if they could produce milk which contained less of a particular milk protein known to be allergenic.

“We were successful in greatly reducing the amount of beta-lactoglobulin (BLG), a milk whey protein which is not in human breast milk and which can cause allergic reactions,” says Dr Stefan Wagner, one of the lead authors on the paper. “Two to three percent of infants are allergic to cow’s milk, and BLG allergies make up a large part of that percentage.” . . .

If you click on the link above you’ll get the explanation of the science behind the discovery.

Malaghan Institute Director Prof. Graham le Gros says “This outstanding breakthrough has enormous implications due to its potential to reduce the significant impact milk allergies have on our children and neatly avoids the concerns associated with genetic modification of the milk proteins themselves.”

Dr Wagner says in future, the basic process of using designer microRNAs to target other genes could provide an efficient tool to change additional livestock traits, for example to produce animals with enhanced disease resistance and/or improved lactation performance.

The successful research team comprised co-authors Anower Jabed, Stefan Wagner, Judi McCracken, David Wells and Goetz Laible. The work was funded by the New Zealand Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and AgResearch.

This is an exciting discovery and it is a bonus that it avoids concerns about genetically modifying milk proteins when GM is very contentious.

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